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).

New Orleans Saints fire Pelicans’ team physician

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The Pelicans have been crushed by injuries the last few years.

Why? That’s an incredibly complex question.

But the New Orleans Saints – who share an owner (Tom Benson), a front-office leader (Mickey Loomis) and other staff with the Pelicans – have found culprits for their own injury woes.

Mike Triplett of ESPN:

The Saints have fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, per source, after it was discovered that CB Delvin Breaux has a fractured fibula and will require surgery expected to sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Breaux was originally diagnosed with a contusion

Suri is a Pelicans team physician.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Fairly or not, Suri – after the Saints deemed him unacceptable – will be in the crosshairs if he keeps his job with the the Pelicans and their injury woes continue.

Rumor: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers next summer

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Chris Sheridan was ahead of the crowd in 2014, reporting LeBron James would likely leave the Heat for the Cavaliers – which obviously happened.

But Sheridan called it a “90 percent chance,” a small – but large enough – hedge. He also said LeBron would announce the decision on LeBron’s personal website. Of course, LeBron revealed his choice in a Sports Illustrated essay.

So, maybe Sheridan knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t.

But the longtime NBA writer just fanned the flames of the already hot LeBron-leaving-Cleveland rumors.

Sheridan:

There have already been plenty of warning signs about LeBron’s relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, which didn’t restart in a great place.

It’s entirely believable LeBron would leave Cleveland, in large part due to Gilbert.

But it’s also fun to speculate about that salacious storyline.

Maybe Sheridan or his source got carried away for that very reason. Or maybe they know something.

Neither possibility should be discounted.

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant betting odds favorites to win MVP

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Unlike the early projections for the NBA title next season, the MVP race seems wide open.

Russell Westbrook put up ridiculous numbers on his way to the award last season, but now he is going to share the rock with Paul George. James Harden made a legitimate case and would have won most seasons, but now he will have the ball in his hands less with Chris Paul running the show.

Who is going to win? Westbrook and Golden State’s Kevin Durant are the early betting line favorites, with these odds courtesy of online gaming site Bovada.

Russell Westbrook (OKC) 7/2
Kevin Durant (GS) 9/2
Kawhi Leonard (SAN) 13/2
LeBron James (CLE) 15/2
James Harden (HOU) 8/1
Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 17/2
Steph Curry (GS) 11/1
Anthony Davis (NOP) 16/1
Paul George (OKC) 25/1
Chris Paul (HOU) 25/1
Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 25/1
DeMarcus Cousins (NOP) 33/1
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 33/1
John Wall (WAS) 33/1
Blake Griffin (LAC) 40/1
Nikola Jokic (DEN) 40/1
DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 50/1
Joel Embiid (PHI) 50/1
Kyrie Irving (CLE) 50/1
Damian Lillard (POR) 50/1
Draymond Green (GS) 60/1
Ben Simmons (PHI) 66/1
Gordon Hayward (BOS) 70/1
Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 75/1
Jimmy Butler (MIN) 75/1
Andrew Wiggins (MIN) 75/1
Kevin Love (CLE) 100/1
Kyle Lowry (TOR) 100/1
Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 100/1

Yes, it is far too early to discuss this. As a voter, I don’t even start to make a list of serious candidates until midway through the season (then that list evolves as the season wears on). But it’s fun to speculate about.

To me, the smartest bet on the board seems to be Kawhi Leonard — he could have won last year, and if anything the Spurs are going to ask more of him this season. I think Harden has a chance to win it this season even with CP3, same with Westbrook, but it feels less likely. It’s hard to imagine one Warrior being picked above the others for the award. If Giannis Antetokounmpo finds his jumper it could happen, but that feels more like something a couple seasons away. Same with Karl-Anthony Towns being in consideration.

If you’re going to bet on Kevin Love, just donate that money to charity where it will do some good.

If Jeff Hornacek doesn’t work out with Knicks, is David Blatt next in line?

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It’s not fair to judge Jeff Hornacek of his first season as coach of the New York Knicks. Phil Jackson made some poor roster decisions — don’t hire a coach that likes to play fast then go sign Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah — and then there was the on again, off again, on again triangle offense looming over everything.

This season Hornacek will sink or swim on his own terms, and his ability to develop Kristaps Porzingis into a true franchise cornerstone and put Tim Hardaway Jr. and other young players in good positions around them.

If not, is former Cavaliers coach David Blatt lurking? Frank Isola of the New York Daily News says it’s something to watch.

Blatt, who has enjoyed tremendous success abroad, owns an impressive resume. No question about it. But you know the old saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And Blatt has connections with people in high places inside the Knicks front office, namely team president Steve Mills and newly hired front office executive Craig Robinson…

Mills is going to give Hornacek every opportunity to succeed in New York but Mills, who is said to have strong opinions about how the team should be coached, also wants to see results. That begins with Hornacek repairing his relationship with Kristaps Porzingis, who did not connect with the head coach last season and ultimately skipped his exit meeting with Jackson, Hornacek and Mills in April.

Repairing that relationship with Porzingis is crucial. We’ll see if Hornacek can do that and get this team moving in the right direction.

Blatt wants to return to the NBA, but his he the guy to connect with Porzingis? Blatt’s problems in Cleveland had far less to do with Xs and Os than it did relationships with players — Blatt was saying he wanted to team to play faster long before Tyronn Lue said that when he took over, but Lue could get players to buy in and listen. Blatt couldn’t. Blatt came in expecting to be handed respect, touting his European resume (that NBA players shrugged at), and demanding deference rather than building partnerships with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Blatt came off as needing to be the smartest guy in the room, always. Basically, Blatt could not handle the player/power dynamic in the NBA (coming out of Europe, where coaches have absolute power, like an American college coach). Has he learned how to deal with it?

Before we get to that question, Hornaced gets his shot. The real test for the Knicks comes after Christmas, when they spend most of a couple of weeks on the road (due to the Grammys coming to Madison Square Garden), it’s a tough couple of weeks, and the team could struggle in that stretch and not recover. Hornacek has to have the team playing well enough, and buying in enough by then, to survive that trip. Do that and he will stick around. If not, the sharks are circling.