Baseline to Baseline recaps: Celtics bench gets them a win

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while thinking at least one drug dealer really cares….

Grizzlies 107, Thunder 97: We told you last week in the power rankings Memphis was for real. Believe us now? Brett Pollakoff broke down this game for us.

Clippers 107, Heat 100: Speaking of teams that are for real, meet the Los Angeles Clippers. They are getting much better play out of D’Andre Jordan and they are defending. Brett Pollakoff also broke this game down, too.

Celtics 98, Jazz 93: Boston’s bench was the key in this one. First, we have had a Jeff Green sighting (just ask Al Jefferson) and he had 16 points. Bigger still was Leandro Barbosa — Rajon Rondo left the game in third quarter with a sprained ankle but Barbosa was part of a Celtics team that made a key 14-2 run where they took control of the game. Boston’s bench accounted for 47 of their points. Paul Pierce added 23, Paul Millsap had 20 points and 12 boards.

Pistons 94, Sixers 76: Pistons win! The Pistons win! They are celebrating the Pistons first win of the season on the streets of Detroit. And if you are a Philadelphia fan you may want to ask — how did you just lose to the Pistons at home? Handily.

They lost because they shot 29.8 percent — they couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean (thanks Chick Hearn). They lost because they got outworked on the boards. They lost because they played like they didn’t care. Detroit played with the desperation of a team that needed a win — Greg Monroe had 19 points and 18 rebounds, while Kyle Singler added 16 points.

Bucks 99, Pacers 85: Wow, the Pacers are playing some bad ball right now. This was a 30-point beat down where Tyler Hansbrough and Sam Young made it look like a 14-point loss with a solid fourth quarter. The Bucks made a push at the start — they were up 7-0 and never trailed after that — and played pretty well the rest of the way. They got 16 points each from Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. But mostly, the Bucks just had to stay out of the way of the self-destruction.

Rockets 100, Hornets 96: In the first half James Harden was slashing to the rim at will, with Al-Farouq Aminu trying but unable to stay in front of him. Harden had 19 points in the first half (30 for the game) and when he re-entered in the second quarter it sparked a 17-4 run that capped a 39 point quarter for the Rockets and they were in total control. Credit New Orleans for chipping away at it and making a game of it — the Rockets didn’t pressure Greivis Vasquez and he put up 24 points, Ryan Anderson added 20 points and 12 rebounds. New Orleans got all the way back within 2 points in the final two minutes, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

Bulls 112, Suns 106 (OT): The Suns keep digging themselves holes then trying to climb themselves out — this time it was 18 points. They almost did climb out against the Bulls — they forced overtime. But a10-2 Bulls run in overtime and Chicago gets a win in the first game of its dreaded annual circus trip. Carlos Boozer scored 28 points and added 14 rebounds, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah each had 21 points. Luis Scola had 24 for the Suns while Michael Beasley and Shannon Brown were each 4-of-15 shooting on the night.

Bobcats 89, Timberwolves 87: The Charlotte Bobcats are on a three-game winning streak. If the playoffs started today, the Bobcats would be the seven seed in the East. Let that marinate for a minute. Charlotte was really in control of this game the entire second half, until a late 16-2 run by the Timberwolves (fueled by some bad Bobcats plays, such as Reggie Williams calling time out when they were out of them) tied it up — and set the stage for Kemba Walkers’ heroics. He had 22 on the night and the game winner. Ramon Sessions came off the bench and added 18 for Charlotte. Andrei Kirilenko led the Wolves with a game-high 26.

Mavericks 107, Wizards 101: Dallas was in control of this one, up 22 in the second half, but Washington opened the fourth quarter on an 18-3 run sparked by Kevin Seraphin. And it was a game. It was within three in the final minute when a Seraphin steal led to a Jannero Pargo open look three to tie it — and he missed. Next possession for Dallas O.J. Mayo fouled, hit the free throws (he had 25 points on the night) and that sealed the game. Chris Kaman had 23 for Dallas, Jordan Crawford 21 for Washington.

Hawks 92, Warriors 88: With Al Horford out and Josh Smith mired in an ugly slump (6-of-16 shooting in this one), the boards belonged to the Warriors in this one and it was key late. Up 3 inside of :30 in the game Stephen Curry missed a three but Harrison Barnes got the offensive board, was fouled, hit is free throws and iced the game. Barnes had his best night as a pro with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Korver scored all of his 14 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting. Ivan Johnson added 15 for the Hawks. David Lee had 18 points and 10 boards for Golden State.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.