Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dallas makes the Clippers work for it

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while listening to an ice record

Spurs 108, Lakers 105: The Lakers went on a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter to make this game interesting down the stretch, but in the end the result was the fifth straight Los Angeles loss. Darius Soriano broke that one down for us.

Clippers 99, Mavericks 93: The Clippers had to work for this one, coming from behind in the fourth quarter at home to a Dallas team showing some fight. Good Darren Collison showed up for Dallas and that was key — 22 points on 15 shots, plus six assists. Toss in 21 Clippers turnovers and you have yourself a real chance for the Mavericks. But when they needed him in the fourth Chris Paul was making plays — steals, layups and he had 16 assists on the night. Dallas would have beaten most teams with that effort, but they struggled with the Clippers pressure defense when it mattered.

Grizzlies 94, Warriors 87: Generally if your team shoots 2-of-17 from three you don’t win. But Memphis doesn’t win with threes, they win with defense and points in the paint (a battle they won 60-34) and that was enough. Rudy Gay looked like the kind of player you’d want to trade for with 18 points and six assists. Zach Randolph looked like the best player on the floor with 19 points and 12 assists. Stephen Curry had 24.

Thunder 106, Timberwolves 84: No Kevin Love for Minny but this was close for a half, mostly because of a painfully ugly first quarter that ended 16-16. But Oklahoma City opened the third quarter on a 17-6 run and that pretty much was the ballgame. Kevin Durant had 26 points, Russell Westbrook had 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Nice, professional win for the Thunder.

Bucks 104, Bulls 96: Jim Boylan is 2-0 as a head coach. The Bulls owned the first half, going on a 22-7 run in the first quarter to lead by as many as 15. Then Brandon Jennings started draining threes and the Bucks went on a 22-7 run at the start of the third and took the lead. Jennings had four threes and 20 points in the third (35 for the game), coincidentally after Nate Robinson got into him a little bit with some trash talk before the start of the second half. Well done Nate.

One thing to watch, Monta Ellis rolled his ankle near the end of the game. Not sure how severe it is but watch out, especially if he is on your fantasy team.

Raptors 90, 76ers 72: Don’t look now but the Raptors have won 8 out of 10 and are back to playing some defense — they held the Sixers to 39.2 percent shooting. Philly is trending the other way, having now lost five in a row. As has it been during the slide, a bad third quarter (giving up 29 points on 63 percent shooting) had a lot to do with it. Amir Johnson had 19 points and 12 boards to lead the Raptors, Jose Calderon dished out 11 assists.

Celtics 87, Suns 79: The Boston bench has not been as great as hoped this season, but it’s better than the Suns’ version. The Celtics won the second quarter by 13 behind Jared Sullinger (8 points in the quarter, 12 points and 16 rebounds for the game) and Jeff Green (14 points). Then the Suns went on an early third quarter 17-0 run and took the lead back and we had a game again. It took a 13-2 run when Kevin Garnett was the only starter on the floor at the start of the fourth to seal the win.

Boston continues to show they have found their defensive footing, holding the Suns to 39 percent shooting for the game and 16.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

Jazz 112, Bobcats 102: Utah never trailed in this game. Why? Because Charlotte’s defense is awful. Well, they did keep it close for 18 minutes and they forced Utah to take jumpshots. Problem is starting midway through the second quarter the Jazz hit their jumpers — a Gordon Hayward three, a Paul Millsap a jumper and more. It was a 20-4 run and it was over then. Al Jefferson had 26 points and Millsap added 19. Nice night for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Hornets 88, Rockets 79: Second night of a back-to-back for Houston who got the win against the Lakers then acted tired late — Houston led by 10 in the third quarter but New Orleans opened the quarter on a 22-2 run and ran away for the win. Roger Mason Jr. sparked that fourth quarter with 15 points in the fourth plus he guarded James Harden and held the beard to three points in the fourth. Best player recently you’re not watching is Greivis Vasquez who had 17 points and 11 assists.

Cavaliers 99, Hawks 83: Atlanta can get in the bad habit of settling for jump shots. How do you know when they are doing that? When they have just five free throws in an entire game. On the other side Kyrie Irving was attacking — 18 points in the third quarter when the Cavaliers started to pull away and he finished with 33 on the night. Also, good to see Shaun Livingston have a nice game off the bench (eight points, five assists). For those keeping score in Atlanta, that is four straight losses for the Hawks.

Nuggets 108, Magic 105: Kenneth Faried is a pure beast — 19 points and 19 rebounds on the night. Just wanted to get that in up front. As for the game, the Magic have to be kicking themselves because they led by seven late in the fourth quarter then Denver went on a 15-5 run and grabbed the win. Ty Lawson had 19 including the three to put Denver up late. Jameer Nelson had 20 but it wasn’t enough, this is 10 straight losses for the Magic.

Chris Paul scores 33, Rockets topple Warriors 116-108

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden felt closer to normal after struggling in his first game back from a hamstring injury, and the Houston Rockets got a big game from Chris Paul to down the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

Paul scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, Harden bested Stephen Curry twice in the final seconds and the Rockets held off the Warriors 116-108 to snap their 14-game road winning streak.

The victory gives Houston a 2-1 series advantage over Golden State after the reigning NBA champions had won the series the previous three seasons.

“Obviously they’re a championship caliber team for the past four years … and that’s what we’re trying to build our way up to,” Harden said.

Harden stepped back from Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left, then blocked Curry’s 3-point attempt after a timeout.

Harden finished with 22 points. Paul added two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

“It’s been a good streak, disappointing end to it,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But we didn’t deserve to win tonight. We played pretty poorly, did a lot of things to hurt ourselves and we’re playing a great team. Can’t get away with it.”

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni raved about the performance of the 32-year-old Paul .

“The guy is a winner, he’s been a winner, he’s going to win,” D’Antoni said.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts and 6 of 20 overall. It was just the sixth time in his career that he’d attempted 20 or more shots while making six or fewer.

“It was just one of those nights where I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor,” he said. “So I’ve got to take that responsibility for that one. It was pretty bad.”

The Warriors were wrapping up a five-game road trip and had won the first four games to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins. But they struggled from the outset Saturday and trailed by double digits for most of the first half.

It was Harden’s second game back after missing seven with a strained hamstring. He was in a much better rhythm than in his return Thursday night, when he scored a season-low 10 points. He had eight assists, two steals and two blocks Saturday.

The Rockets got the victory despite missing Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green, who were both serving the second game of a two-game suspension for an altercation with the Clippers. Clint Capela added 18 points for Houston on a night when top reserve Eric Gordon went 0 for 9 from 3-point range and finished with just six points.

Golden State led by four before Houston went on a 9-2 run, with the first five points from Paul, to take a 109-106 lead with about three minutes left.

 

Report: NBA’s minor league won’t allow potentially eligible college players

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USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Louisville’s Brian Bowen and Auburn’s Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy haven’t played this season due to the FBI’s probe into college basketball. Mitchell Robinson left Western Kentucky before his freshmen season started to train for the NBA draft.

But they’re all potentially eligible to play college basketball again someday.

So, they can’t play in the NBA’s minor league.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

That ineligibility stems from a rule that prevents players who were enrolled in college during an academic calendar year from being offered a contract in the same season, unless they have been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA with no opportunity of being reinstated (as was the case with P.J. Hairston in 2013).

“We’re not looking to compete with college basketball for their players,” a G League source said. “The NBA, specifically NBA lawyers, are concerned about the optics of NCAA players being disgruntled with minutes or coaching decisions and leaving college with the hopes of joining the G League. This is a blanket rule unfortunately that applies to all players. Like all of our rules, we are open to revisiting them if needed, but at the moment any player that was enrolled in a college this season is ineligible to play in our League.”

NBA executives and scouts are griping because they can’t evaluate these prospects in games. I don’t care about that.

This is an affront to capitalism. The basis of our economy should be competition, and the NBA is handing the NCAA – a cartel – a monopoly in this level of basketball. And it’s the workers (players) who lose.

So what if a freshman is disgruntled with his minutes and wants to turn pro during the season? He can’t join the NBA due to the age minimum. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to at least enter the NBA’s minor league, for which he’s old enough? We should trust him to manage his future, not protect the almighty college coach from facing consequences to his rotation.

I don’t know whether or not the NBA and NCAA colluded, but the NBA’s stance is the exact one it would take if it colluded. The NBA has worked to improve the quality of play in its minor league by increasing salary to compete against foreign leagues for players. It’s strange to just willingly take a backseat to college basketball when there’s a great opportunity to compete for top talent.

The players could legally challenge the policy, but they’ll be eligible for the NBA draft in June, and there’s risk in upsetting a potential future employer. And would anything be decided quickly enough in court to matter for the challenging player?

Players like Melton, Bowen, Wiley, Purifoy and Robinson aren’t allowed to let the market set their compensation as college basketball players, because NCAA schools have colluded to cap wages. Those players aren’t allowed to seek employment in the comparable American professional league, because that league doesn’t want to compete with the NBA.

It’s a travesty for capitalism and these workers.

LeBron James has tepid response when asked about Tyronn Lue’s job safety

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LeBron James was no fan of David Blatt, so he was let go around the All-Star break with the Cavaliers a couple of years ago when the team had the best record in the East.

Now the Cavaliers have fallen to third in the East and have lost 8-of-11, were blown out by the Thunder on national television on Saturday, have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and have a brutal stretch of games against good teams ahead.

Is Tyronn Lue’s job in danger? That question has been asked around Cleveland, and when LeBron was asked about it after the OKC loss his response was tepid (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com)

Is a coaching change really the answer? I’m not Lue’s biggest fan as a coach, I think Cleveland’s offense has too much isolation and can get simplistic, but he’s got an older team that lost Kyrie Irving (and replaced him with Isaiah Thomas, who just returned to the rotation a couple of weeks ago and is still getting his legs under him).

Maybe that wakes the team up, but the more likely change is a trade or two at the deadline. If Cleveland isn’t willing to put the Brooklyn pick in the mix (reportedly they will only do that for an elite superstar) it’s hard to see them getting a player that really makes a difference. However, get one who wakes the team up out of its malaise and plays a little defense, and the Cavaliers become more likely to out of the East.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Cleveland.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?