Baseline to Baseline recaps: That Kevin Durant guy is pretty good

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while being more than willing to do your part to fight breast cancer….

Knicks 100, Nets 86: Battle of New York? Not really. The Knick are an elite team that got Carmelo Anthony back and he dropped 31 (that makes it 110 points on the Nets in their three meetings). The Nets are 2-8 in their last 10 and struggling on defense. We break it all down in more detail here.

Thunder 100, Hawks 92: And the Thunder are up to an even dozen wins in a row after cruising to a win over the Hawks (don’t let the final score fool you, this simply was not that close). The Thunder started to pull away at the end of the first quarter and never lost that lead. Russell Westbrook owned the first half, scoring 21 of his 27.

The Hawks fought back and early in the fourth quarter got the lead down to 4, but then it was the Kevin Durant show, he had 18 in the fourth quarter on his way to 41 for the game. The Hawks would make runs in the fourth quarter, then Durant would happen. There was nothing anyone could do. Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 19 points, Josh Smith had 17 points and 12 boards.

Rockets 125, 76ers 103: Finally, James Harden and Jeremy Lin clicked on the same night — Harden finished with 33 (and got 17 at the free throw line as he was aggressive) and Lin 18 points on 12 shots. When they both score like that the Rockets are very difficult to beat. Of course, it helps to play the Sixers, who have been a defensive disaster for a couple weeks now. Mix those two and you Houston shooting 56 percent on the night and cruising for the win.

Celtics 103, Cavaliers 91: Paul Pierce can still take over a game — he dropped 40 and keyed the win that stopped the Celtics three game losing streak. But it wasn’t easy. Boston pulled away late in the second quarter and early in the third, eventually leading by 20. But then a 20-2 run sparked by Kyrie Irving (22 points on the night) cut that all the way down to two in the fourth. It took a key layup by Rajon Rondo and some Pierce fireworks to seal the win for Boston.

It’s a win for the Celtics, but this is a 5-22 Cavaliers team, losers of five straight, who were without Anderson Varejao, and the still were in it in the fourth quarter. The Celtics still have some issues to work out.

Grizzlies 90, Bucks 80: Good defensive teams win games because even on nights their offense goes cold they stay in the game and have a chance. That’s how Memphis won this — they can win ugly as well or better than any team in the league. The Grizzlies shot just 40.9 percent on the night, but that was better than the Bucks 35.3 percent.

The king of futility in this game goes to Monta Ellis, who started 0-for-13 shooting (he hit his last shot of the game to go 1-14). On the other end of the spectrum, Zach Randolph had 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Pacers 104, Jazz 84: This was a blowout of epic proportions for the Pacers. Indiana led by as many as 32 points on the night, and had this game wrapped up by halftime after a horrific offensive second quarter from the Jazz.

Utah managed just eight second-quarter points on 3-of-20 shooting, while missing all eight of its three-point attempts in the period. Indiana wasn’t that much better, scoring just 22 points on 42.9 percent. But it was enough to build a 22-point lead by halftime that was never in jeopardy the rest of the way.

The Pacers got balanced scoring, with five players in double figures and three — Paul George, George Hill, and Gerald Green — all getting 20-plus.

The Jazz were coming off of a nice win in Brooklyn the night before, but an effort like this tends to erase that memory pretty fast. “I don’t know if we can get past this quickly,” Utah guard Gordon Hayward said afterward, which is probably the appropriate response.
—Brett Pollakoff

Kings 131, Warriors 127: We had an old-fashioned shootout in Sacramento. There were 102 possessions (the league average is close to 94) and both teams shot 50 percent. The game was tied 118-118 with 2:13 left when the Kings when John Salmoms attacked off the dribble and Stephen Curry — who had 23 points in the second half and 32 for the game — picked up his sixth foul and went to the bench. That was followed by an Aaron Brooks three and a Marcus Thornton three (he had 19 points) to get the Kings the win. Sacramento was 11-of-19 from three and that was key in the game.

DeMarcus Cousins had 24 points and Brooks had 23 — and both took just 12 shots a piece. David Lee put u 29 points and eight rebounds for Golden State, while Jarrett Jack added 28 points.

Clippers 93, Hornets 77: After the Clippers picked up their 11th win in a row, owner Donald Sterling went into the Clippers locker room and led a “hip-hip hooray” chant. Seriously.

As for the game, the Clippers are just way more talented and it showed. Lob City was in full effect, Los Angeles was having fun. They led by 10 at the half and when the Hornets made a run to get it close in the third quarter the Clippers went on a 13-3 run and that was it. Chris Paul ended up with 10 points and 12 assists.

Suns 121, Bobcats 104: Believe it or not, this game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate … which is to say, it wasn’t close at all.

A 22-6 run from Phoenix over the first six-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter ran the Suns lead to 17, and put this one out of reach. Charlotte clearly carried some feelings of disappointment from Tuesday night’s close loss to the Lakers into this one, and didn’t have the energy to fight back from a lead that reached 20 before the end of the first half.

The Suns smelled blood once the third quarter began, and Shannon Brown had 18 points in the period on 7-of-10 shooting, including hitting four of his five shots from three-point distance. It was a season-high 26-point performance for Brown, surpassing his previous season-high, which also came against the Bobcats.

The lead got as high as 30 before the fourth quarter began, and the Bobcats cut into it to get within 14 once the Suns had already checked out for the evening, but the game was never in doubt. The Suns rained down a season-best 17 three-pointers, and did so on just 28 attempts for a mark of 60.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Kemba Walker led all scorers with 27 points on just 14 shots. The Bobcats players are buying what head coach Mike Dunlap is selling to a certain extent, but it was clear in the locker room afterward that the losing streak, now at 13 games, is beginning to weigh on these guys.
—Brett Pollakoff

Raptors 97, Pistons 91: Is Toronto better without Andrea Bargnani? It’s looking that way. The Raptors won their fourth straight with Bargnani sidelined due to injury, this time over a dreadful Pistons team that is now just 2-13 on the road this season.

DeMar DeRozan and Alan Anderson did the heavy lifting offensively for Toronto with 23 points and 16 points respectively, while Jose Calderon continued his strong play at the point with 17 assists.

Greg Monroe had a career-high 35 points to go along with 10 rebounds, but Rodney Stuckey was the only other Piston player to finish in double figures with 13 points.
—Brett Pollakoff

Magic 90, Wizards 83: The one thing these two teams have in common is the fact that no one expected either to be very good at all this season. While Orlando has exceeded all expectations by somehow getting out to a more-than-respectable 12-13 start, Washington seems intent on making sure those preseason projections were as accurate as possible — and then some.

This one wasn’t pretty, with each team managing to score less than 15 points in one of the two final periods; the Magic outscored the Wizards 38-33 in a fairly brutal second half.

Nene and Jordan Crawford led Washington with 20 and 19 points respectively, while the Magic got big contributions in limited minutes from two of their reserves. J.J. Redick had 17 points in 26 minutes, and E’Twaun Moore chipped in 15 in 20 minutes.

Glen Davis left the game with under a minute to play, after appearing to suffer a shoulder injury following a hard foul from Emeka Okafor. His status will be worth watching in the days ahead.

The loss dropped the Wizards to 1-11 on the road, and just 3-20 on the season.
—Brett Pollakoff

Kevin Durant on Giannis Antetokounmpo: “I would tell him to play for himself”

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Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.

So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.

Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.

Via ESPN:

What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.

That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.

The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.

Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in, series goes 2-2 (VIDEO)

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.

Report: Ime Udoka, Ettore Messina, David Fizdale to interview for Hornets job

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The Charlotte Hornets have a new GM in Mitch Kupchak. Upon taking the helm, Kupchak made short work of firing head coach Steve Clifford.

Now, the Hornets need a new coach and they have quite a few names to choose from.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Hornets will be interviewing current San Antonio Spurs assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina along with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.

Via Twitter:

All three have extensive coaching experience under their belts. Udoka played in the NBA for seven seasons and has been an assistant coach in San Antonio since 2012.

Messina is a four-time Euroleague champion as a coach, and a two-time winner of the Euroleague Coach of the Year award. He’s coached abroad and in the U.S. since 1989, and he’s been with the Spurs since 2014.

Fizdale coached the Grizzlies for two seasons. Before that he was a longtime assistant coach with the Miami Heat under Erik Spoelstra.

Hornets star Kemba Walker said that who the team chose as GM would influence his decision to re-sign after 2018-19. Walker loved Clifford, so who Charlotte picks as coach could carry significant weight with Walker as well.

LeBron James, Cavaliers hope to even series with Pacers

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — LeBron James has been in this playoff position before, just not in the first round.

With Cleveland down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers in the first round, James was asked if Game 4 in Indianapolis Sunday was a must win.

“It’s the postseason,” said James, who is 10-0 in his career in first-round playoff series with Cleveland and Miami. “Every game is a must win. You want to come in and play well and win no matter what. No matter if you have home-court advantage or if you’re starting on the road, that’s the mindset you have to have. I felt like (Friday) was a must win. We didn’t win, obviously, but it’s the same mindset on Sunday.”

James, who scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and delivered eight assists in a 92-90 road loss Friday night, rejected what he felt were reporters’ attempts to ask if the other players needed to do more.

“You guys think I’m going to throw my teammates under the bus? I’m not about that,” James said. “Guys just, we have to be better, including myself. Had six turnovers (Friday). I was horrible in the third quarter, couldn’t make a shot. If I had made some better plays in the third quarter, the lead doesn’t skip.”

The Pacers cut a 17-point halftime deficit to six points in the third quarter and finally took their first lead in the fourth quarter.

“We know we all gotta play better as a collective group, no matter who it is,” James said. “We got production to start the game and in the second half there wasn’t much production. We still had a chance to win. We’ve got to regroup and figure how we can be better in Game 4.”

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said the Cavaliers were limited because George Hill‘s back “locked up” in the second half. Hill played only nine minutes in the second half, scoring two of his 13 points. Lue used James and Jordan Clarkson rather than backup point guard Jose Calderon in the fourth quarter. If Hill can’t go Sunday, Lue said he will likely start Calderon.

Hill had an MRI on Saturday, but the results weren’t back. He is listed as questionable for Game 4 with back spasms. Hill was hurt during Game 1 when Trevor Booker set a back screen and felt stiffness before Game 2, but played 20 minutes.

For the Pacers, Bojan Bogdanovic was the difference maker, scoring 15 of his team-high 30 points in the fourth quarter. Bogdanovic struggled shooting the first two games of the series.

Bogdanovic, who made 7 of 9 3-pointers, kept his focus after two quick fouls in the first quarter and had to leave briefly in the fourth when he picked up his fifth foul. The seven 3-pointers tied a franchise playoff record, also held by Reggie Miller twice, Chuck Person and Paul George.

“I thought it was going to be another poor performance from myself, but in the second half I started hitting shots and started feeling (much) better and I think a did a great job (Friday night),” the Croatian forward said.

Bogdanovic said he was most pleased with his defense against James.

“Everybody thought before this season that I cannot play defense,” he said. “I don’t say that I am playing great defense, but I am working hard at trying to make it tough for each offensive player that I am guarding.”

Bogdanovic said he tries to push James so he catches the ball far from the basket.

“Against those type of players you just try to stay aggressive on them,” Bogdanovic said.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan was impressed with his ability to produce both ways.

“You’re taking a pounding if you’re on the defensive end of the floor if you’re guarding LeBron,” McMillan said. “But offensively he found some energy. He got some good looks and he knocked them down.”

The Pacers came back to win eight times during the regular season after being down 15 or more points.

“We’ve been resilient,” guard Victor Oladipo said. “We made an adjustment in the second half and it helped us. But it’s only one game; I’m looking forward to Sunday.”