Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nuggets knock of Thunder in OT

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while taking out your frustrations in the “rage room”

Nuggets 121, Thunder 118 (OT): This was the kind of game that fans find entertaining and makes a coach cringe. Entertaining because it was close most of the way, was played at a fast pace with a lot of scoring, and saw a dramatic late run by the Thunder that helped send the game to overtime. But these two teams combined for 48 turnovers and 61 personal fouls. The game was played fast but sloppy.

Thunder fans looking to why their team lost were blaming the referees. With 10 seconds left in overtime and down one, Denver’s Kenneth Faried — who played a great game and frustrated the Thunder bigs all night — missed two free throws. The Thunder called timeout and set up a play, but on it Nick Collison got called for a moving screen (the third moving screen call on the Thunder of the overtime). Thing is, you can’t blame the refs when you had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get to the line 38 times by themselves in the game. The Thunder stars were aggressive and the whistles were tight, but that eventually goes both ways.

If Thunder fans want to blame something, it’s that Denver got the offensive rebound on 41.7 percent of their missed shots (20 offensive rebounds). Denver is not a team of great shooters (although Corey Brewer was for a night on his way to 26 points) but they will make you pay of you keep giving them chances. OKC did and Denver gets a big win.

Raptors 108, Lakers 103: Lakers fans, tell me if you’ve seen this movie before: The team plays disinterested and dispassionate basketball for 40 minutes, taking their opponent (who is better than they think) for granted, then down in a deep hole they make a late run, get close but fall ultimately short.

Sums up the Lakers loss to Raptors Sunday. Sums up the Lakers season.

What was different in this case was Dwight Howard getting ejected in the second quarter, something Brett Prollakoff wrote about that earlier at PBT. With just five points and two rebounds. Pau Gasol looked much the better big with 25 points on 15 shots.

But the rest of the story was familiar — the Lakers defense was bad and the Raptors offense was balanced and smart in shot selection — they shot 54.8 percent. Jose Calderon had 22 points, both Ed Davis (who has played well since Andrea Bargnani left) and Landry Fields had 18. The Raptors got 55 of their points in the paint.

Pistons 103, Celtics 88: Nobody in Boston was paying attention — the game was on opposite the Patriots in the AFC championship game — which was probably best. Boston opened 1-of-8 shooting and fell behind 13-2 to open the game. They battled back with runs of their own to tie it and Detroit led by four at halftime. But the second half brought more of the same as the first quarter and this time Boston couldn’t make it up (thanks to Will Bynum, who had 9 of his 15 in the fourth).

Doc Rivers was talking trades after the game he was so frustrated. Who with? Rajon Rondo was 4-of-16 shooting and had 15 assists but 9 turnovers in an erratic game. Brandon Bass was nonexistent no points and 2 rebounds in 10 minutes. Jason Terry wasn’t a spark plug off the bench with four points (Courtney Lee with 16 and Jeff Green with 14 were).

Don’t sell Detroit short here, their front line was fantastic. Greg Monroe had 15 points and 11 rebounds, rookie Andre Drummond dame in off the bench with 16 points on just six shots. But yes, keep starting Jason Maxiell over Drummond.

Mavericks 111, Magic 105: The first quarter of this game was wild. Orlando opened the game hitting everything and raced out to an 18-4 lead half way through the first. Then Dallas responded with a 19-2 run of its own to take the lead. Orlando hung around in this one because Glen Davis got 24 points in the paint and Dallas did a poor job defending J.J. Redick half the night and he can shoot (he finished with 18). Seriously, with the game tight late how does Redick get left WIDE open for a three. Dallas got great stuff from the old guard of Shawn Marion (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Vince Carter (15 points, six assists).

Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers completes pass to become part owner of Bucks

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Aaron Rodgers is regularly be seen courtside at Milwaukee Bucks games, having professed his love of the sport many times. Here was there Friday night for the Bucks’ Game 3 win, sitting courtside with girlfriend Danica Patrick.

This time, he was doing it as part owner of the team.

Milwaukee announced between the first and second quarters that the Packers QB1 is now part-owner of the Bucks, having bought a minority stake in the team.

“I have proudly called Wisconsin my home for the past 13 years, and I am thankful for the friendships and the opportunities I have been given to live and play here,” Rodgers in a released statement. “I am excited and honored to deepen my connection to the region by joining Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, Mike Fascitelli and the ownership group of the Milwaukee Bucks. As a huge fan of the NBA and the sport of basketball, this is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to furthering my affinity for Wisconsin sports as a minority owner in a team I love and support.”

Rodgers is a California native who attended Cal in the Bay Area for college and now — like many an NBA player — splits his time between living where he works in Wisconsin and Southern California.

This is a smart time to buy into the Bucks — and not just because they won Friday. Milwaukee moves into a brand new building next season which should generate a lot more revenue for the franchise. Plus, the Bucks are poised to make a leap forward in the East as a team behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and a solid supporting cast (likely led by a new coach next season), which will lead to more revenue as they become a team to see on the road, one that fills buildings.

Pelicans look to pull off sweep of Trail Blazers

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Before the 2017-18 regular season began, any conversation regarding the New Orleans Pelicans and brooms had something to do with the possibility the team would clean house.

That would have meant parting ways with coach Alvin Gentry and general manager Dell Demps if the Pelicans missed the playoffs for a third consecutive year despite having one of the NBA’s best players in Anthony Davis.

But now, the broom means something very different.

Energized on both ends of the court, the Pelicans have the broom ready Saturday at the Smoothie King Center to sweep the faltering Portland Trail Blazers out of the Western Conference playoffs with a fourth consecutive victory in the first-round series.

With a win Saturday, the Pelicans would become the first playoff team seeded sixth or lower to sweep a first-round playoff series since the 2001 Charlotte Hornets swept the Miami Heat 3-0 in a best-of-five series.

“Closeout games are the hardest,” said New Orleans guard Rajon Rondo, a 32-year-old veteran who is the Pelicans’ second-oldest player, someone who has served as an on-court coach to his younger teammates. “That’s what I’m going to try to explain to these guys. The first three might have been tough, but this last one is going to be very tough.”

In routing the Blazers 119-102 on Thursday to take a 3-0 series lead, the Pelicans fed off a raucous sellout crowd and led by as many as 33 points in the second half, allowing Gentry to rest his starters. Davis finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds while nursing a sore left thumb, and forward Nikola Mirotic, acquired after center DeMarcus Cousins went down in late January with a season-ending Achilles injury, scored a career-playoff-high 30 points, with 14 in the first quarter.

Even though Portland’s normally potent guard tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum had their best game of the series — combining for 42 of the Blazers’ 102 points — Lillard had trouble shaking free of the Pelicans’ trapping defense, which forced the ball out of his hands. Lillard made just 5 of 14 shots, including 3 of 9 from 3-point range.

“They whooped our butt,” said McCollum. “They beat us in every facet of the game: loose balls, rebounds, free-throw line, energy plays, 3-pointers in transition. … You name it, and they did it.”

The Pelicans have made a conscious decision to swarm Lillard and McCollum at every opportunity, daring other Blazers to beat them. Portland hasn’t adjusted properly to the strategy. Lillard has shot 32.7 percent in the three losses.

“I don’t think (defensive assistant coach) Darren Erman has gotten the credit that he deserves,” Gentry said. “He put together a great defensive game plan. It was him that brought the game plan to me and said, ‘This is what I want to do against them.'”

“You have to continue to mix it up and give them different looks,” Gentry added. “Even doing that, those guys got some shots off and made some real difficult shots. We’ve just got to make sure that we stay locked in and not let them get into one of those zones when it starts to go in and it doesn’t matter what kind of shot they’re shooting that it’s going to go in.”

Making matters worse for the Blazers is their injury status. Both Moe Harkless (left knee) and Evan Turner (right toe) are questionable for Game 4.

Portland coach Terry Stotts said the Pelicans have been tough to handle because a different player each night has shredded the Blazers’ defense.

“Going into the series, those four guys (Davis, Jrue Holiday, Mirotic and Rondo) have played extremely well,” Stotts said. “(Mirotic) is the third different guy who’s had a 30-point night. He’s very efficient, and he made a lot of smart basketball plays as well.”

Heat’s Justise Winslow fined $15,000 for stepping on Embiid’s mask

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NEW YORK (AP) Miami’s Justise Winslow has been fined $15,000 by the NBA for attempting to damage Philadelphia center Joel Embiid‘s facemask during Game 3 of their playoff series.

Winslow intentionally stepped on Embiid’s mask after it had fallen onto the court with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter of the 76ers’ 128-108 victory on Thursday night.

The NBA cited Winslow for unsportsmanlike conduct in announcing the penalty Friday.

Embiid was wearing the mask for the first time after returning from a 10-game absence caused by a broken orbital bone around his left eye.

Philadelphia leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday.

Defense found: Bucks overwhelm Celtics for 116-92 win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Khris Middleton scored 23 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 19 and the Milwaukee Bucks used a dominating first half to overwhelm the Boston Celtics 116-92 on Friday night, narrowing their deficit in the first-round playoff series to 2-1.

Eric Bledsoe and Jabari Parker each added 17 for the energized Bucks, who held the Celtics without a field goal for nearly an 11-minute stretch of the first half.

Milwaukee found its defense after a disheartening 14-point loss in Game 2, getting contributions from up and down the roster.

Backup center Thon Maker scored 14 points and had five of the Bucks’ 12 blocks. Pesky guard Matthew Dellavedova, a veteran of a championship run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, helped hold young Celtics point guard Terry Rozier to nine points on 2-of-7 shooting.

“The activity, if you take the stat sheet out of it, the activity and the energy that we brought … as you go through the game, that’s what you need, is the energy first,” coach Joe Prunty said.

Al Horford scored 16 for the Celtics, who fell behind by 23 at halftime and got no closer than 76-62 with 3:06 left in the third quarter on Jayson Tatum‘s 3-pointer.

The game was so well in hand that the Bucks closed out the victory even with Antetokounmpo on the bench for much of the fourth quarter with five fouls. Middleton had eight points in the fourth.

Game 4 is Sunday in Milwaukee. The Celtics will need to get off to a much better start if they want to avoid going home for Game 5 with a 2-2 series tie.

“We got into a hole. This is new for our group,” Horford said. “They had it going … and we really didn’t have an answer for them tonight.”

Milwaukee hustled for loose balls and stayed active around the paint, used its length to get deflections and disrupt Boston in the lane.

The 7-foot-1 Maker, in particular, provided a huge boost to help Milwaukee counter what had been a decisive edge off the bench for the Celtics. Maker got extended minutes only because starting center John Henson missed the game with a sore back.

Nearly everything else went Milwaukee’s way, too.

Parker, who voiced displeasure this week after playing just 24 minutes over the first two games, was 7 of 12 from the field and played 30 minutes. Bledsoe, outplayed by Rozier in the first two games, shot 8 of 13.

“Good win, lots of positives tonight. Quick turnaround … so we’ll have to do it again on Sunday,” Prunty said.