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Baseline to Baseline recaps: Hornets comeback runs into Lillard

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while buying an ugly Christmas sweater

Lakers 111, 76ers 98: Two wins in a row for the Lakers, both on the road — in this sad season for them so far that counts as something to celebrate. For Philly, more of the up and down we have seen from them this season. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke it all down.

Trail Blazers 95, Hornets, 94: New Orleans got itself in trouble with turnovers — 11 in the first half that led to Portland jumping out to a big lead, one that reached 16 in the third quarter. J.J. Hickson helped push that lead with 11 of his 24 points coming in the third. But the Hornets made a run behind Ryan Anderson, who was a blistering 7-of-10 from three on his way to 26 points. Greivis Vasquez pitched in an impressive 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

The Hornets made it all the way back to tie the game at 92-92 on an Austin Rivers three with 42 seconds left in the game. Then Damian Lillard dropped a three and it was all over.

Nuggets 122, Kings, 97: Sometimes after a road trip teams will get home and just relax and that leads to a blowout. Maybe that’s what happened here. Or maybe the Nuggets are just a lot better than the Kings. Denver went on a 14-0 first quarter run to take control of this game and never looked back from there, this game never felt in doubt. Denver shot 54 percent on the night, Sacramento 34 percent. Active and aggressive JaVale McGee showed up and was active throwing down dunks all game, finishing with 19 points. Danilo Gallinari added 18 points, 10 in the first quarter.

Raptors 103, Rockets 96: The 1 ET start seemed to catch the Rockets napping as Houston started the game 1-7 shooting with three turnovers, and the quick lead was up to 12 in the first quarter. Then the Rockets woke up, went on a 17-4 and led before the end of the first quarter. We had a close game the rest of the way. Toronto got 17 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds from Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan had 19 and Ed Davis looked good (as did Alan Anderson). Buut for Raptors fans the thing that should make you optimistic is the Raptors defended well for a full game. Houston shot just 41 percent. The Raptors were a solid defensive team last season that has looked nothing like that this season, but this felt different, maybe a corner was turned.

James Harden had 28 but this is seven straight road losses for the Rockets.

Larry Bird: Kevin McHale won’t coach Pacers

Larry Bird
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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1. Kevin McHale withdrew from the Kings’ coaching search.

2. The Pacers fired Frank Vogel.

Will McHale reunite with former Celtics teammate Larry Bird in Indiana?

“I would not do that to Kevin, have him to work for me,”Bird said at a press conference today. “That’s just not fair. I respect the man too much, and we’ve been through too many battles together to bring him in here and be my coach. I would love for him to be my coach, but it ain’t going to happen, because our relationship.”

It would have been compelling to watch Bird and McHale work together, but I’m not convinced McHale is the best coach available – though that’s not the only concern.

After all, Bird just ousted someone who might be a better coach than any replacement.

Frank Vogel out as Pacers coach

Larry Bird, Frank Vogel
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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After leaving Frank Vogel hanging for a few days – something he explicitly said he hoped to avoid – Pacers president Larry Bird finally ousted the coach.

“It’s time for a new voice around here,” Bird said at a press conference today. “Sometimes my job really sucks, and this is one of the toughest things I’ve done.”

Bird clarified that Vogel wasn’t fired, that his contract had expired and wasn’t being renewed.

Will there be a search now to replace Vogel? Kevin McHale has already been mentioned as a candidate, and he’d make sense. He played on Bird’s Celtics and learned an up-tempo system with the Rockets.

Vogel is now free to interview with the Rockets, and I think he’d be a home-run hire. Vogel’s defensive skills are badly needed in Houston, and perhaps the the Rockets’ institutional knowledge could fine-tune his offense.

Report: Rockets talking to Jeff Hornacek, Sam Cassell, Stephen Silas, Chris Finch

Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek directs his players in the second half of an NBA exhibition basketball game against the Houston Rockets Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Houston. The Rockets won 95-92. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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There are the big names: Jeff Van Gundy, David Blatt, Mike D’Antoni and Frank Vogel.

There’s the catchy name: Kenny Smith.

And there’s the eliminated name: J.B. Bickerstaff.

Expect many more names in the Rockets’ coaching search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Houston owner Les Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey met with Bickerstaff on Monday, as well as Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Houston assistant Chris Finch, league sources said.

Conversations with potential candidates are expected to include several prominent college coaches, sources said.

Among the NBA candidates with whom the Rockets are working to set up interviews are former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and Charlotte Hornets assistant Stephen Silas, league sources said. There could be 10-15 – perhaps even more – candidates interviewed in the process, league sources said.

Hornacek coached the Suns and looked pretty good doing so until this season, when he feuded with Markieff Morris, used too many strange lineups and saw the team quit on him. If he can explain this year’s troubles, he’d be a solid hire. But the Rockets have the best job available, so they can probably aim a little higher.

Cassell, like Smith, played for the Rockets. An intelligent player, Cassell has successfully transitioned to coaching, though I’m not sure he’s ready for a top job. He mentored John Wall with the Wizards before joining the Clippers. From afar, it’s just tough to judge his contributions to a loaded coaching staff in Los Angeles.

Stephen Silas broke into NBA coaching on his dad’s staffs with the Hornets (turned Pelicans) and Cavaliers. Paul Silas even let Stephen serve as head coach for games during the 2011-12 season. Between and after stints with his dad, Stephen has impressed at other stops around the league. Maybe someone who learned offense from Don Nelson and defense from Steve Clifford and gets along well with players would make a good head coach. The biggest question is how his rapport with players would translate to the head chair, but that’s a concern for any assistant.

Finch coached in Europe for more than a decade until the Rockets tabbed him to coach their D-League team. After a successful stint there, he moved to the bench in Houston. He’d be more of a daring hire at this point, but he could perhaps unite the Rockets’ front office and coaching staff better than anyone.

Reports: Kevin McHale withdraws from Kings coaching search, could join Pacers

Kevin McHale
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports wrote a few weeks ago about the Kings coaching search:

Kevin McHale is steadily gaining internal support, league sources told The Vertical. If Cousins truly is the future, the Kings have to hire a coach he will buy into, and McHale, a respected voice and one of the game’s all-time great post players, certainly seems like a good fit.

They won’t get him, of course

McHale indeed emerged as a candidate, and though it took him a little longer than other prominent former head coaches, McHale also came to the conclusion Mannix foresaw,

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This is part of the reason Sacramento talking to everybody. The Kings don’t know whom they can get.

An owner who has changed course too often in Vivek Ranadive, a general manager with too little experience in Vlade Divac, a top player who repeatedly feuds with coaches in DeMarcus Cousins – who’d want this job? Probably not someone who could get one of the NBA’s other 29 head-coaching gigs, and that might apply to McHale.

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

Frank Vogel is still twisting in the wind, but it seems unlikely the Pacers keep him.

There’d definitely be something intriguing about former Celtics teammates Larry Bird and Kevin McHale teaming up in Indiana. McHale’s experience with the Rockets could help him install an up-tempo offense, too.