Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nets, Warriors get statement wins


Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while figuring out what’s in and what’s out for 2013

Nets 110, Thunder 93: Well, P.J. Carlesimo has his signature win and for a night the Nets looked like the team from the first weeks of the season. Oh, they’re going to call Phil Jackson anyway, but it is a good win.

From the opening tip this was the Nets night — they opened the game on an 11-2 run, hit 8-of-11, then Andray Blatche ended the first quarter with this horrid one-handed 14-foot straight away shot that banked in. It was that kind of night and the Nets were up 33-19. That lead blossomed all the way up to 55-32 at one point, in part behind Joe Johnson who had 20 first half and 33 points overall.

You knew the Thunder run was coming and it did, tying the game in the fourth quarter. But Johnson had eight straight points including a jumper to break the tie. Brook Lopez was sharp with 25 points and Deron Williams added 19 to get the Nets get a big win. Kevin Durant had 27 points in a losing effort.

Warriors 115, Clippers 94: Golden State won this game with defense. Seriously. Yes, Stephen Curry had 31 points and 8 assists, while David Lee had 24 points and 13 rebounds and worked beautifully out of the high post, but it was the defensive end of the floor where the Warriors were best.

Golden State played the Clippers pick-and-roll very well and force Chris Paul into long passes, then rotated well on them. Lee did a fantastic job on the slumping Blake Griffin. The Clippers shot 36.4 percent overall and were 8-of-29 from three. Clippers not named Paul, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes combined to score just 18 points.

While the Warriors turned the ball over one in five times down the court in an up-tempo game, but the Clippers did not convert that into all the highlights and big runs you expect form Los Angeles. Again, credit Golden State.

Heat 119, Mavericks 109 (OT): There were some good signs for Dallas in this game — like the 30 points and 4-of-10 three pointers from O.J. Mayo, who looked like his old self. Or that Dirk Nowitzki played nearly 30 minutes and had 19 points.

But what was really fun about this game was the final minute of regulation. Miami was down one going for what would be their second to last shot and of course it was LeBron James driving the lane, then when the defense collapsed he kicked to Shane Battier for the corner three. Great find, great shot. Remember a few years ago when some shortsighted fans used to kill LeBron for those passes saying he was “not being the man” by making the right basketball play? Gotta love the Internet.

Then without a timeout to set up a play the Mavs (down two) end up with Darren Collison dribbling around, picking up his dribble at the elbow and getting stuck. Then Dirk Nowitzki ran over, took a handoff from him and hit a vintage one-legged fade away to tie it up.

LeBron missed a good-look pull-up 20 footer over Vince Carter and we were headed to overtime… where the Heat started 3-3 and the Mavs 0-3 and it was basically all over. But the game was a lot of fun — Miami gets a win off Lebron’s 32 points and Dallas has a game to build off.

Grizzlies 93, Celtics 83: So Avery Bradley is not the instant, just add water savior of Boston basketball. He returned, the Celtics still looked bad in a loss. To be fair Bradley defended well, they tracked it at WEEI’s Green Street — when Bradley was on Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley had five points and two assists in the first half, but when someone else was on him Conley was 4-of-6 with three assists. Bradley was -11 on the night.

Kevin Garnett was not good in the first half, shooting 1-of-7 from the floor as he seemed to struggle with the long, physical defenders of the Grizzlies. Paul Pierce kept the Celtics in this game in the first half, going 4-of-4 from three. Memphis led at the half 50-41.

Boston made a run in the fourth but it wasn’t enough. The Celtics drop to 3-17 on the season.

Spurs 117, Bucks 100: Ah, yes. The Stephen Jackson bowl.

Jackson had eight points and four assists in 21 minutes off the bench against the team he played for briefly last season, but the real story was Tim Duncan and Tony Parker logging 34 and 36 minutes respectively.
Why is that? Well, with a game in New York against the Knicks on deck Thursday — one which will be San Antonio’s fourth in five nights — the temptation will be there for Popovich to rest his starters, as he did the last time he was faced with this situation in Miami against the Heat.
The fact that the game won’t be televised nationally on TNT might save the Spurs from a fine, or it might not — but either way, whatever Popovich and the organization decides will be infinitely more interesting than was this easy win over the Bucks.
—Brett Pollakoff

Bulls 96, Magic 94: Chicago won the battle of the shorthanded, playing without Joakim Noah, while Orlando missed Glen Davis for the seventh time this season.

Taj Gibson started in Noah’s place and finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer finished with 31 and 10. That was enough to put away the Magic, despite Orlando’s comeback from 18 down in the third that made this a contest that wasn’t decided until the final few possessions.
—Brett Pollakoff

Rockets 104, Hornets 92: dThe Hornets did a good job in this game of controlling the tempo, not letting the Rockets just run away. Well, until the second half of the fourth quarter when a 20-6 Rockets run decided this one. Patrick Patterson keyed the run with 13 fourth quarter points on 6-of-6 shooting. James Harden had 31, Omer Asik added 21 for Houston. Eric Gordon sat out for the Hornets they continue to ease him back in. Ryan Anderson had 18 off the bench and Greivis Vasquez had 15 for New Orleans.

Jazz 106, Timberwolves 84: Utah — always more dangerous at home — started the second quarter on a 15-4 run and never looked back from there. This was the kind of win the Jazz needed (and not just because they lost seven of nine) because with Mo Williams out for six weeks they are going to need this kind of team effort with six guys in double digits. Gordon Hayward led the way with 17.

Minnesota couldn’t buy a basket — they shot 34.5 percent as a team and were 2-of-17 from three. Kevin Love was 4-of-14, Luke Ridnour was 4-of-11. With that shooting their energy faded and Utah outplayed them in pretty much every way imaginable.

Pacers 89, Wizards 81: Washington opened this game on the wrong side of an 8-0 run, and scored less than 20 points in two of the game’s four quarters. The team was competitive and closed the gap before halftime, but the Pacers led by as many as 18 in the third, and got a sensational 29 points and 14 rebounds from Paul George to close the Wizards out.

In case you were wondering how bad the Wizards are right now, their starting five combined for 33 total points, and two of them — Martell Webster and Garrett Temple — went scoreless. So, yeah. Lots more losing on the horizon in Washington.
—Brett Pollakoff

Raptors 102, Trail Blazers 79: Portland beat the Knicks in New York on Tuesday, so on the second night of a back-to-back on the road in Toronto, a let down performance was somewhat to be expected. Especially with the way the resurgent Raptors have been playing as of late.

Terrence Ross led the way for the Raptors with 26 points in 25 minutes off the bench, and DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, and Amir Johnson did the rest of the damage. If these names don’t sound familiar to you, they will soon — Toronto is 8-1 over its last nine games, with wins by a margin of 20 or more points in three of those contests.
—Brett Pollakoff

Kings 97, Cavaliers 94: Sacramento got a rare road victory, and did so with both Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton sidelined due to injury. Cleveland, meanwhile, has its own injury issues, and was without Anderson Varejao — who leads the league in rebounding — for the seventh straight game due to a knee injury.

DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson did the heavy lifting for the Kings, finishing with a combined 37 points and 23 rebounds in Varejao’s absence. Kyrie Irving was held in check, and finished with 22 points, five rebounds, and six assists.

The Cavs continue to compete at times, but are still searching for answers. Dion Waiters was replaced by C.J. Miles in the starting lineup, but they played the same amount of minutes (29), and neither was particularly efficient in scoring the basketball.
—Brett Pollakoff

Suns 95, Sixers 89: Phoenix snapped a six-game losing streak, thanks to solid all-around performances from several of the team’s most important players.

Luis Scola put up big numbers for the third consecutive game, and led the Suns with 21 points and nine assists. Marcin Gortat was big, especially in the first half, and finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds. P.J. Tucker found himself in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game for defensive purposes, but was able to finish inside when given the opportunity, and knocked down a clutch jumper late after Scola passed out of a double team in one of the game’s final key possessions.

Jrue Holiday was largely held in check, despite his triple-double line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.

The arena was more packed than it has been for a random weekday game this season, thanks to thousands of Kansas State supporters who were in town for college football’s Fiesta Bowl showing up to check out their most famous NBA alumnus, Michael Beasley.

The crowd chanted for Beasley, who received a DNP-CD in his team’s previous game, while booing Markieff Morris, who hails from in-state rival Kansas University. Beasley played less than seven minutes, but made the most of his time by putting up four shots and hauling down 4 rebounds — though he was a -11 in his time on the court, thanks to the way the Sixers manhandled the Suns second unit to start the second quarter.
—Brett Pollakoff

LeBron James on NBA play-in tournament: “No, no, no. That’s wack.”

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It’s a long way off, but there has been some discussion in the league office — and some momentum built up in some corners — for a play-in tournament for the NBA playoffs. While multiple variations of how this would work are in play, it involves some combination of teams seeded seven to 10 in a few single-elimination (or home-and-home) games to see who gets into the 16-team playoffs. The goal is to keep more teams — and more fan bases — engaged in the playoff chase longer.

LeBron James is not a fan. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“No, no, no,” James said Wednesday. “That’s wack. That’s wack. Why? You got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That’s corny. That’s corny. That’s wack. To play for what? What are they playing for?”

So, how do you really feel?

“[Make the playoffs by winning the tournament], even if my record is better than yours? Nah, that’s wack,” James said.

As fans, we love drama and unpredictability — it’s what we love about March Madness, the upsets that ruin our bracket — and a play-in tournament would bring some to the often predictable NBA table.

However, LeBron has a point. Using the Western Conference and the current standings as an example, how excited are fans and the front offices of the Jazz and Nuggets going to be about an extra game or two for the right to get smacked down by Houston in the first round? Or for the Timberwolves to maybe be out after a game where they lose to the Clippers in a play-in, rather than getting to take on Golden State? Will this really sell well?

The only way this gets backing of most players and the union is if it could help shorten the season — if television and other revenue from these games allowed the 82 game season to drop to 72 (or whatever) and keep the money the same, then players would listen. However, that much money seems unlikely.

Maybe a mid-season NBA Tournament held in one city could generate the needed revenue to shorten the season. Maybe. But that seems more likely than a play-in.

Kyle Korver to miss Wednesday vs. Toronto after death of his brother

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I can’t imagine what this is like.

Cavaliers’ sharpshooter Kyle Korver will not be with the Cavaliers for an interesting showdown with Toronto on Wednesday night due to the death of his younger brother, Kirk. Korver has been given a leave of absence from the team.

Kirk Korver, 27, played four years of college ball at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

There are four Korver brothers, all of whom played college basketball or at a higher level. Kirk was the youngest of them, he reportedly fell seriously ill about a week ago.

Our thoughts are with the entire Korver family.

Report: Does Kyrie Irving need pins taken out of his knee? If so, when?

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In Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving broke his left kneecap (that the Cavaliers won the next two games without him was a testament to LeBron James‘ greatness). As part of the surgery to repair Irving’s knee, pins were inserted to aid in the stabilization, a common medical procedure.

Those pins may be what is causing Irving’s knee issues now, which have kept him out for four games with more to come and no definitive timeline for his return. From long-time Boston reporter/radio host Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub.

While this has not been confirmed by other sources, Massarotti posted this before others “broke” the news of Irving getting a second opinion on his sore left knee, which is not recovering as fast as hoped (something Brad Stevens later confirmed). That gives this report some validity, as does the fact Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge has said Irving would eventually need surgery on that left knee again. Plus, this just makes sense logically — pins becoming an irritant in a surgically repaired area is relatively common.

If true, my guess — and this is just speculation — is that Irving will try to play through it during the playoffs then get the surgery in the off-season. The team may push for surgery sooner rather than later (especially depending upon the recovery time and risk of further damage).

Whatever the decision, the hope in Boston is to have Irving, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis — all currently out injured (with only Irving and, maybe by the second round Smart, back for the playoffs) — and be poised them to make a run deep into the postseason then. This season, with all the health issues, the odds seem long for a run into June.

NBA Power Rankings: Rockets back on top behind MVP-to-be Harden

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The Houston Rockets are back on top of the power rankings, with the Raptors now second, and the Trail Blazers holding steady at fourth despite the end of their win streak. At the bottom, Phoenix has “reclaimed” the last spot and are winning their race to keep Deandre Ayton in Arizona.

Rockets small icon 1. Rockets (56-14, Last Week No. 2). Things look good for the Houston Rockets: They almost certainly will finish with the best record in the NBA, James Harden almost certainly will win the MVP, Ryan Anderson is back in the rotation giving Mike D’Antoni another three-point shooter to lean on (although how much Anderson can be used in playoff matchups remains to be seen), and after the dramatic 115-111 win in Portland Tuesday night the Rockets’ schedule softens up. D’Antoni has kept his rotations tight and not rested guys very often, how much will that change down the stretch?

Raptors small icon 2. Raptors (53-18, LW 1). The Thunder snapped the Raptors’ 11-game win streak Sunday, but don’t read too much into that one loss: It was Toronto’s third game in four days and it showed in their legs late. Toronto plays each of the other two top teams in the East twice, starting with Cleveland Wednesday (the Celtics start next week), which makes for interesting storylines, but be careful drawing big conclusions from those games: If I’m Dwane Casey and I have a strategy I like vs. Cleveland, I’m not breaking it out for a regular season game (maybe beyond a couple of possessions at most). Save your best strategies for the games that matter.

Warriors small icon 3. Warriors (53-18 LW 3). Golden State should get Stephen Curry back Friday vs. Atlanta — he would have been back last weekend if this were the playoffs, but the Warriors have conceded the one seed and now are working on just getting their team healthy and rested before the postseason. With Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson banged up, the Warriors health is something to watch over the final few weeks of the season. The team says that everyone will be healthy come the start of the playoffs, and if so they will be a fully formed Voltron again, but if not the equation changes some.

Blazers small icon 4. Trail Blazers (44-26, LW 5). Despite the loss to the Rockets and the end of the 13-game winning streak, Portland seems to have nearly locked itself into the three seed in the West (and the way they are defending they should be favorites in the first round). One interesting stat that could play a role in a postseason series: the Blazers have the worst shooting percentage of any team in the league at the rim, 57.1% (not including garbage time numbers, this stat via Cleaning the Glass). Also, they are 27th in the league in corner threes attempted, just 5.5% of their shot attempts.

Celtics small icon 5. Celtics (48-23, LW 4). The Marcus Smart thumb injury and surgery is a big blow, especially depending upon how much of the playoffs he misses. Smart is Boston’s best perimeter defender and a central part to the best defense in the NBA this season. Boston is more vulnerable in the first round without him, but would really miss him in a second-round matchup (especially if that is Cleveland). Kyrie Irving is getting a second opinion on his knee and could miss more time than originally thought, but he should still be back for the postseason, giving Boston’s offense a much-needed boost.

Thunder small icon 6. Thunder (43-30 LW 6).. Corey Brewer has given the Thunder a tremendous lift since getting picked up after the Lakers’ waived him. Brewer is scoring 11.7 points per game, shooting 38.2 percent from three, playing competent defense, helping them speed up the pace, and generally giving them the fifth starter they needed since Andre Roberson went down. Brewer with the other four starters — Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Steven Adams — is +11.3 per 100 possessions. All this seems unsustainable at this level, in fact, the numbers fell back considerably after the loss to Boston, but still this move has been a big pick up for the Thunder, who had won six in a row before Tuesday.

Jazz small icon 7. Jazz (40-31, LW 10). The Jazz had won nine in a row before Tuesday’s punch-to-the-gut loss to tanking Atlanta. Still, Utah seems destined for the playoffs (which should get Quin Snyder some Coach of the Year votes down the ballot). It’s still all about the defense for this team: Their Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Rudy Gobert lineup has a defensive rating of just 76.4 since Crowder was traded to the team (and they use that lineup heavily). This is a tough playoff out for whoever lands them. It’s good to see Dante Exum back on the floor.

Sixers small icon 8. 76ers (39-30, LW 9). They have won three in a row and still have the easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way — 9-of-13 games against teams below .500. The Sixers are just one game back of the four seed — home court in the first round is not out of the question. But there are questions: How hard does Brett Brown and the organization push for that four seed vs. make sure Joel Embiid gets some rest down the stretch before they lean heavily on him in the postseason? And how much can they up his 31 minutes a game average in the playoffs?

Pacers small icon 9. Pacers (41-30, LW 7). Injuries have caught up with the Pacers, Domantas Sabonis is still out with an ankle issue, and Myles Turner missed a little time, all of which meant more Al Jefferson than the Pacers would like to see and a couple of losses. The Pacers need some quality wins — like vs. the Pelicans, Clippers, and Heat coming up this week — because of the teams in the mix for the 3/4 seeds in the East (Cleveland, Washington, and Philadelphia are in there, too) the Pacers have the toughest remaining schedule. That includes a West Coast road swing starting next Tuesday in Golden State.

Cavaliers small icon 10. Cavaliers (41-29 LW 12). Kevin Love is back (he looked pretty good dropping 18 in his return from a broken hand) and Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. should be back in the rotation soon as well. Cleveland survived a recent road trip with a 3-3 record but need to rack up wins — and find some cohesion on defense — to keep the three seed and home court in the first round of the playoffs. Interesting test Wednesday against Toronto (they catch the Raptors on a back-to-back).

Wizards small icon 11. Wizards (40-30, LW 14). The Wizards are a good three-point shooting team, hitting 37.6% of their triples once you remove the garbage time stats from the equation (via Cleaning the Glass). Which makes you wonder why they are 23rd in percentage of their shots taken from three — if you can make them, take them. What matters most to this team is the return of John Wall, which may not be that far off — Scott Brooks thinks he could get into some 5-on-5 drills in the coming days, the last step before suiting up.

Spurs small icon 12. Spurs (41-30, LW 16). The death of the Spurs has been greatly exaggerated. Just a reminder not to completely count them out, the Spurs have won four in a row and it appears they will extend their playoff streak to 21 seasons. This Spurs run of wins has come like so much of their season: Incredible defense — 0.88 points per possession allowed through the four games — and enough offense courtesy LaMarcus Aldridge to get the “W” (he’s averaging 30.25 points per game over the streak). Bet the under when the Spurs and Jazz play Friday.

Pelicans small icon 13. Pelicans (41-30, LW 5). It’s not only the Anthony Davis show since DeMarcus Cousins went down, Jrue Holiday has stepped up, too — he is shooting 41.1% from three in his last 15 games, adding the spacing the Pelicans need. In the wake of owner Tom Benson’s death, his wife Gayle runs the show now and there are not going to be big changes, according to sources. Also, the rumors that she’s going to sell the team are not true (at least not for a while, the Pelican’s lease runs through 2024). New Orleans won the first game of a rare back-to-back-to-back at home, something forced by the leaky roof postponement against the Pacers earlier this season.

14. Timberwolves (41-31, LW 8). The Timberwolves have gone 5-5 without Jimmy Butler, and Tuesday night against the Clippers was what we need to see more of from this team. First, Karl-Anthony Towns was getting touches and shot attempts (through the first 8 Butler-less games he was getting just one more shot attempt per game than he did during the rest of the season). Second, there was leadership on both ends from Andrew Wiggins, who had one of his better defensive nights. Minnesota is now three games up on the Clippers and the Timberwolves have a much easier schedule the rest of the way, they are going to make the playoffs.

Heat small icon 15. Heat (38-33, LW 19). With no Dwyane Wade, in a very close game with Denver last weekend, it was Josh Richardson isolation at the end of regulation then James Johnson at the end of overtime. Neither really got to their spots on the floor for a quality shot (fortunately for Miami it dominated the second OT, so no need to look for another option). With an easier schedule than the stumbling Bucks, Miami may be destined for the seven seed and a date with Boston in the first round.

Nuggets small icon 16. Nuggets (38-33, LW 15).. Denver has started a crucial 7-game road trip 0-2, including a gut-punch loss to the Grizzlies (and the 2OT one to the Heat stung, too). Just since the start of March, the Nuggets have lost to the Mavericks, Lakers, and Grizzlies — that lack of urgency and consistency is why they are two games out of the playoffs and with difficult prospects to climb back in ( has them with a 12% chance of getting in). The Nuggets have gone 11-23 on the road this season (they are 27-10 at home) and if they don’t change their road woes around this week the playoffs will be out of reach.

Clippers small icon 17. Clippers (37-33 LW 13). Since the All-Star break, the Clippers are 24th in the NBA in defense, and their problems were evident Tuesday night when they had no answer to the Jeff Teague/Karl-Anthony Towns pick-and-roll and were roasted in the second half because of it. Tough road games ahead against the East coming up next — at Milwaukee, Indiana, and Toronto — and with the Clippers 2.5 games back of the Jazz and the final playoff spot, they need to find some road wins fast.

Bucks small icon 18. Bucks (37-33 LW 18). The Bucks are going to make the playoffs — in large part because the teams behind them in the East have collapsed — but that’s not what people around the league are talking about with this team. The question is who will be the next coach? This is going to be a coveted job — getting to coach Giannis Antetokounmpo and a host of good role players who just need a better system in place — plus the team will be moving into a new arena. Will Bucks ownership spend what it takes to get a name/high-level coach?

Lakers small icon 19. Lakers (31-39 LW 17). Remember a few weeks back when Lonzo Ball torched the Spurs from three because, as coach Gregg Popovich admitted after the game, their game plan was to go under the pick and dare him to beat them from deep, then Ball did just that? Teams in the NBA learn, they are now trailing over the top on Ball, not letting him have uncontested looks, and since Spurs game he’s shooting just 23.1% from three (and 30.3% overall). Ball is good from three if he gets some room and his feet set, but teams have figured that out and are taking his space away.

Pistons small icon 20. Pistons (32-39, LW 20). Detroit has played poorly of late and is going to miss the playoffs. What happened in Detroit? Blake Griffin is getting blamed for it. Stan Van Gundy likely will lose his GM title for it (and we’ll see if he is back as coach next season). However, the reality is this team came apart when point guard Reggie Jackson got hurt. Since he went out Dec. 27 the Pistons were 12-25 without him — they were 19-14 with him. Jackson returned Tuesday in a limited role (15 minutes) but it will be too little, too late for the Pistons this season.

Hornets small icon 21. Hornets (30-41, LW 21). Nicolas Batum is going to miss some time to deal with chronic tendinitis in his left Achilles — a real concern because that doesn’t exactly heal well. Much like Mike Conley in Memphis, it requires constant monitoring and plenty of rest during the season. Before the All-Star break the Hornets were a middle of the pack defensive team in the NBA. Since the break they are 26th in the NBA giving up 6.6 points more per 100 possessions.

Kings small icon 22. Kings (23-49, LW 24). No team of late has given a higher percentage of minutes to first and second year players than the Kings — and there have been bright spots. Specifically, back-to-back wins last weekend against Miami and a banged-up Golden State team where rookie point guard D’Aaron Fox was making clutch plays. The Kings have started out 0-1 on a six-game homestand at the Golden One Center where the home fans can get a good look at the young players themselves.

Nets small icon 23. Nets (23-48, LW 25). Part of what the Nets wanted to do after the All-Star break is give a lot of minutes to D’Angelo Russell and see what they really have in a player eligible for a contract extension this summer. He has shown flashes of both an ability to score and ability to lead a team, but the simple matter is the Nets have been 4.8 points per 100 possessions better this season when he is off the court, with most of the improvement coming on the defensive end. My guess is Russell is back next season without an extension and hits restricted free agency in 2020.

Knicks small icon 24. Knicks (26-45, LW 28). New York easily took care of Chicago on Monday night, meaning the Knicks almost certainly will enter the lottery in the nine slot (a 6.1% chance of jumping up into the top three). Few people around the league expect Jeff Hornacek to keep his job past this season, but who replaces him? Mark Jackson’s name gets mentioned. New York would be wise to get David Fizdale in early and talk to him. Whoever gets the gig, with Kristaps Porzingis likely out for the first half of next season, the new coach needs a long leash to build a culture that can win with KP in a couple of seasons.

Bulls small icon 25. Bulls (24-46 LW 22).. Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine are two of the young cornerstone pieces the Bulls think they have going forward. One problem, when they are on the court together this season, the Bulls get outscored by 19.1 points per 100 possessions. When those two are paired, the Bulls score less then a point per possession and are sieve defensively. This is over the course of 308 minutes, so while there is certainly noise in that number it’s not inconsequential. Chicago may not be able to keep both.

Mavericks small icon 26. Mavericks (22-49 LW 23). Whatever Mark Cuban says — and he should be far more focused on off the court Dallas issues right now rather than on it — the Mavs players are not tanking. The team just went 1-3 on a recent road trip, but in the losses they took the Raptors to overtime and played both the Nets and Pelicans tight. Another week, another milestone for Dirk Nowitzki, who is now fifth on the NBA’s career regular season games played record.

Magic small icon 27. Magic (21-50, LW 26). With Elfrid Payton shipped West, D.J. Augustin has played well as a point guard for Orlando since the All-Star break. It’s a lone bright spot in an offense where Aaron Gordon missed time, Evan Fournier is still out, and after some impressive play lately Jonathon Simmons missed Tuesday’s game against the Raptors.

Hawks small icon 28. Hawks (21-50, LW 27). Atlanta is 1-1 to start a six-game road trip thanks to a surprising win over the Jazz Tuesday. Dennis Schroder went off in that game for 41. Before that, the bright spot for the Hawks lately has been Taurean Prince, who dropped 38 points Saturday, and now has two 35+ point games this season, the first Hawk to do that since Joe Johnson.

Grizzlies small icon 29. Grizzlies (19-51, LW 30). Tyreke Evans is back on the court, and not surprisingly the Grizzlies’ 19-game losing streak came to an end. If the “Most Improved Player” award were still the “Comeback Player of the Year” award Evans would be in the mix, despite playing just 51 games (so far). Evans has averaged 19.5 points a game and shot 39.2% from three, he’s going to make more money than the Grizzlies can afford this summer and they will lose him.

Suns small icon 30. Suns (19-53, LW 29). Losers of nine in a row, the Suns have “reclaimed” the bottom spot in the rankings. The Suns are on pace to finish the season with the worst offense and the worst defense in the NBA by net rating — an “impressive” feat. They will probably have the best lottery odds going into it (25% chance at No. 1), and if they get the top pick you can bet they would love to keep DeAndre Ayton in Arizona.

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