Baseline to Baseline recaps: Jazz, Bucks make it night of the comebacks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while thinking there are some really screwed up people in Germany….

Nets 96, Knicks 89 (OT): It certainly wasn’t the best-played, prettiest game of the young season, but it was the most intense. The one with the most playoff feel, both in the stands and on the court. The Knicks had their chances but had key lapses on offense and defense, and I broke those down in our game of the night post.

Thunder 114, Bobcats 69: The game wasn’t really as close as the score indicates. No, seriously it wasn’t. This was a 40-point game at halftime – 64-24 OKC — and Scott Brooks called off the dogs and benched his starters five minutes into the second half. The Bobcats have the only bench that made the struggling Thunder bench look good. If you want to see the number on this ugliness, we broke it down right here.

Jazz 105, Nuggets 103: The only thing hotter than the Nuggets and their four-game winning streak was the Jazz at home, where they have yet to lose this season. The Nuggets were running and gunning through the first 20 minutes of this game and were up 16, shooting 73 percent and getting 48 points in the paint in the first half.

But in the second half the Jazz were able to use their physicality to slow the game down to a pace they were more comfortable at, which led to a 14-0 third quarter run that made it a game. Denver got frustrated. Andre Iguodala got ejected. Utah also closed the game out with key bench players — Derrick Favors had 7 of his 19 in the fourth quarter. Al Jefferson had 28 to lead Utah.

Bucks 93, Bulls 92: If the Bucks can stretch out their lead early in the season and hold on to win the Central division once Chicago and Indiana get healthy, this will be the game they look back on. The Bulls had a 27-point third quarter lead but a 31-4 Bucks run by their bench keyed he comeback win. Milwaukee bench players had 56 points, Bulls reserves 10. Ersan Ilyasova — just moved to the bench so rookie John Henson could get more run, had a game-high 18. Rip Hamilton did have 30 for the Bulls.

Pistons 108, Trail Blazers 91: It was a tale of two young point guard. The Pistons raced out to an early 9 point lead as the shots fell, then in the second quarter Brandon Knight took over with 11 points on his way to 26 for the night. On the other end, the Pistons did good job cutting off Portland’s Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, plus he was just off, and he started 0-11 from the floor. Greg Monroe had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Detroit. LaMarcus Aldridge had a season-high 32 points for the Trail Blazers. Detroit has won three in a row on their hone court.

Spurs 118, Wizards 91: Seriously, how did you expect this to end? Nene and Trevor Booker were out for Washington and the Spurs are now a ridiculous 8-1 on the road. To the Wizards credit they came out with some desperate play early and kept it close for a quarter. Martell Webster had 13 first half points and played well. But the Spurs were the machine that is the Spurs. They wear you down with execution until they get open shots or have or Parker drawing fouls on drives. They went on a 17-6 run to take the lead in the second quarter, then a 10-0 run a few minutes later to stretch out that lead. And then it was over — seven Spurs scored in double figures, led by Boris Diaw with 16.

Grizzlies 84, Cavaliers 78: No Mike Conley for Grizzlies and if you look at the season-long numbers their offense takes a nose dive without him (it drops 10 points per 100 possessions when he sits). That proved true here. Meanwhile the Cavaliers got a fantastic effort from Anderson Varejao, who had 15 points and 22 rebounds, and Dion Waiters added 15 as well. Cleveland led most of the way but in the fourth quarter the Grizzlies defense woke up — Cleveland shot only 20 percent (4 of 20) and had one bucked in the final 5:30 of the game. That will do a team in pretty much every time.

Hornets 105, Clippers 98: It was bombs away — the to teams combined to take 33 three pointers, second most in NBA history (for a regulation game). Caron Butler had 9 threes (on 15 tries) and as a team the Clippers were 18-of-37 (48.6 percent). Impressive. But the Hornets were even better from deep —15-for-25 (60 percent), with Greivis Vasquez (5-for-8) and Ryan Anderson (5-for-9) leading the way.

The key moment was late in the third quarter, when the Clippers made and 8-0 run to tie things up and you expected the home team to pull away, instead they seemed to relax and the Hornets went on a 13-2 run to take a lead they would never relinquish. For the Clippers, the key things they need to do right this season went horribly wrong for a night. DeAndre Jordan was terrible (and played just 15 minutes). Their defense allowed the Hornets to score 117.8 points per 100 possessions and was terrible. I’d say chalk it up to an off night, but the Clippers are now 1-4 in their last five.

Adam Silver: ‘Sounds like’ NBA All-Star draft will be televised next year

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the point of the All-Star draft wasn’t to create a new TV event, but a better All-Star game. He even pointed out Stephen Curry favored not televising the draft this year.

But All-Star after All-Star – from captain LeBron James to last pick LaMarcus Aldridge – expressed a comfort with the selections being known. Good thing, because most of the draft order leaked, anyway.

So, will the draft be televised next year?

Silver, in an interview with Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

I was misinterpreted the other day, because people thought I was diming Steph by saying he didn’t want to televise it. I have no idea whether he wanted to televise it. What he said after the decision came not to televise it, he said let’s give it a chance to see if it works, and then if it works, then we’ll televise it. So, I said I agree with him. But I don’t know whether he was for or against it.

By the way, I’ll take as much responsibility. When we sat with the union and we came up with this format, we all agreed, let’s not turn something that’s 100 percent positive into a potential negative to any player. But then maybe we were overly conservative, because then we came out of there, and the players were, “We can take it. We’re All-Stars. Let’s have a draft.” So it sounds like we’re going to have a televised draft next year. But I’ve got to sit with LeBron and all the guys in the union and figure it out.

Overly cautious is right. This year was a missed opportunity. But the more important thing is getting next year right.

It sounds as if the NBA will.

Twitter reaction All-Star pre-game, Fergie’s national anthem vicious, priceless

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LOS ANGLES — In an intensely polarized nation, few things unite Americans anymore. Sunday night the NBA and its All-Star Game broadcast gave us one of those unifying forces — a pre-game run-up so bad it was universally panned.

The NBA is lucky the new format seemed to work and we had a dramatic, actual basketball game to talk about, helping us move on a pre-game show that, to put it kindly, simply did not work.

It started with a roughly 20-minute singing and dancing skit that was supposed to be about comedian Kevin Hart’s journey to being an NBA player (I think that’s what it was, anyway, it made as much sense as the movie “Wild, Wild West”). It felt forced, was not funny, and just dragged on and on. Even a Kardashian thought this was terrible television.

And that wasn’t even the worst part of the pregame, nor the part that sparked the most outrage online.

Fergie’s sexy, slow, bluesy rendition of the national anthem became the lightning rod.

Charles Barkley joked on TNT that he “needed a cigarette” after the Black Eye’d Peas’ singer’s performance. Shaquille O’Neal jumped in quickly to defend her (“Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it.”) as the broadcast quickly pivoted away from that topic.

Twitter was not so kind, and Draymond Green‘s face caught by camera’s during the anthem became a quick meme.

Twitter had a field day with Fergie’s rendition.

Now, let us never discuss this All-Star opening ever again. Please.

Three things to know from All-Star Weekend: New format worked, for now

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LOS ANGELES — Our regular feature “Three Things to Know” usually wraps up and breaks down the news of the day in the NBA, but in this case we are stepping back to take in all of All-Star Weekend. Three Things will then be off this week until Friday (there are no games until Thursday night as the league takes a little break).

1) The new “captains pick teams” format may have worked as intended. But will it last? This much we can agree on: This was the best played, most dramatic All-Star Game we have seen in a while. There was some actual defense played, guys tried and played with a little pride, they played hard, we had a close and intense ending, and (unlike last season) the night featured something that resembled basketball. There was even a game-tying and game-winning shot.

The new format — where captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry (the highest vote-getters from fans) picked the teams playground-style — got the credit for the change.

“The great thing about our commissioner, he’s absolutely okay with trying something new, to change the format, and it definitely worked out for everybody,” said LeBron, who scored 29 points including the go-ahead bucket late, and was named MVP. “It worked out not only for the players, not only for the league but for our fans, for everybody. It was a great weekend, and we capped it off the right way.”

Was it really the format that led to the change? Tune in next year, and frankly the next few years, to find out.

First off, the players were genuinely embarrassed by the lack of defense and level of play in last year’s game, they talked about it afterwards in New Orleans and it was players’ union president Chris Paul who first pushed for the format change as a way to inject some energy into the game. To a man, the players and coaches talked about “changing the narrative” around the game.

The reality is the game was close, and often in the past when the All-Star Game was close late we got real energy and something resembling defense the final six minutes or so of the game. This year’s game was close, so the genuine energy late was not wildly out of character.

If the league had stuck with East vs. West (but upped the payout to winners and kept the new charity component) would the players have come out and played with this same energy and defense from the start to change the narrative anyway? My sense is probably, again they didn’t want to embarrass themselves again. We’ll never know for sure, but the format got credit for bringing a new energy to the game that may have been coming anyway.

The NBA is going to keep this format — although expect the player draft to be televised next time around — so we will see in Charlotte next February and in Chicago in 2020 if the change was about the format or just a conscious effort by the players to make the product better.

Either way, let’s hope it continues.

2) Donovan Mitchell, welcome to the spotlight. Utah’s rookie Donovan Mitchell is averaging 19.6 points and 4.5 assists a game (and much more than that the past couple of months), has become the Jazz’s go-to scorer and shot creator late in games, and for my money is the current frontrunner for Rookie of the Year (with Ben Simmons a close second). Yet for casual fans Mitchell was flying under the radar — people don’t really tune in to see the Jazz play (they don’t get on national television much) and in a deep rookie class with big names the No. 13 pick out of Louisville was not one of the pre-draft hype guys.

People know who he is now — he took over the spotlight in Los Angeles for a while. He was featured Friday’s Rising Stars challenge, then on Saturday went out and won the Dunk Contest.

“I’ve always been a player who’s not really been talked about a lot,” Mitchell told NBC Sports heading into the weekend. “Never really hyped coming out of high school — I was ranked top 50, but I wasn’t a name that was all over Ball is Life and all those platforms. Then coming into college I wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, I wasn’t one of those guys averaging 30.

“Playing under (Rick) Pitino (in college), it’s grit and grind basketball, and that’s how I was perceived. That just adds to the chip I have on my shoulder.”

Mitchell had plenty of style and flash in Los Angeles. First, he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Then he sealed his Dunk Contest win with a tribute to Vince Carter and one of his legendary dunks.

No player did more for his national profile over the three-days in Los Angeles than Donovan Mitchell.

3) Dunk of the weekend? Give that one to Larry Nance Jr. The newly-minted Cleveland Cavalier Larry Nance Jr. (he was traded from the Lakers at the deadline just more than a week before) may have come in second in the Dunk Contest to Mitchell, but he had the best dunk of the weekend. No doubt.

It was the double self-alley-oop off the backboard.

That was the dunk we’ll be talking about out of the weekend.

‘Tired’ Jimmy Butler sits out All-Star Game at his own request

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LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.3. He’s ninth in the league in total minutes played and played 77:35 minutes in the two games leading up to All-Star Weekend.

Butler was tired and asked Mike D’Antoni to give him some rest, according to both parties (despite speculation this was really a win for the Los Angeles nightlife). Butler did not play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

“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.”

“He was tired and he just felt like his legs weren’t there,” Team Stephen head coach Mike D’Antoni. “He didn’t practice yesterday or play today. You have to respect that. He plays hard. Sometimes your body just needs a rest.”

Butler is having the kind of season that has him in the discussion for a place on the MVP ballot. He’s averaging 22.4 points per game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.3, plus he’s playing strong defense. He and Karl-Anthony Towns have led the Timberwolves to a 36-25 record that has them as the current four seed in the West, poised to break an 11-year playoff drought for the franchise.