Baseline to Baseline recaps: Crazy endings all across the league

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while you were getting your last Whopper Jr. — and I mean last Whopper Jr….

Nuggets 102, Pacers 101: It was the last game of a six-game road trip for the Pacers against an up-tempo Nuggets squad, and Indy was down 13 in the fourth quarter. Most teams roll over at this point, start thinking about sleeping in their own beds and a nice home-cooked meal. But credit the Pacers with showing fight — they went on to a 13-0 run and made this a game at the end.

And it was the very end that was interesting. Tied 101-101 both teams made a defensive play to keep it that way — Paul George blocked a Danilo Gallinari fade away, then at the other end Andre Iguodala stripped Paul George of the ball in an isolation set — and the result was Denver had one last chance with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. We’ve seen it before, the attempt at a from out of bounds alley-oop lob to the rim.

Except Paul George got called for a foul trying to defend Iguodala on the play. There was contact — George clearly backs into an airborne Iguodala — but that foul is never called. Never. It was this time. The Pacers and coach Frank Vogel blew a gasket, but the call stood and Iguodala got two free throws. He hit the first, intentionally missed the second and that was the ballgame. It’s a loss that is going to stick with the Pacers for a while.

Grizzlies 103, 76ers 100: Memphis is a defensive team but they didn’t look like it for 45 minutes on Monday — but they were when it mattered. With three minutes left in the game it was 100-97 Sixers and they got there behind Evan Turner, who pretty much got any open look he wanted on his way to 27 points. Thaddeus Young added 23 points for the Sixers.

But the Sixers wouldn’t score again in the final three minutes. A Zach Randolph tip in made it a one point game, then Rudy Gay grabbed the offensive rebound off Jerryd Bayless miss, slid into the lane and hit a little five footer to give Memphis the lead. Then with the Sixers looking to tie, Marc Gasol — he of the 27 points on the night — blocked a Nick Young corner three attempt to secure the win.

Bulls 93, Bobcats 85: Charlotte made Chicago put in some work here. The Bobcats were down nine at the half but fought back to tie it at 55-55 with less than four minutes to go in the third. That’s when the Bulls went on a 13-0 run that extended into the start of the fourth quarter and that was your ballgame. The Bulls got Luol Deng back, the All-Star forward returning after missing five games with a hamstring, and he had a dozen points. Deng bumped Jimmy Butler out of the starting lineup and he responded with 19 points off the bench to lead all Bulls scorers. Joakim Noah had an awesome line for the Bulls: 13 points, 18 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 blocks.

Nets 97, Magic 77: Late in the first quarter Brooklyn started a 23-5 run that extended into the start of the second, and it took control of the game there and never looked back. They led by 26 and this was never in doubt. The Magic did get the lead down to seven at the end of the third quarter, then the Nets opened the fourth on a 9-0 run. Deron Williams had 20 points and 9 assists.

Rockets 125, Jazz 80: This is the worst home loss in Utah Jazz history. It was like the two teams were playing at different speeds, with the Rockets taking control in the second quarter with a 17-4 run — sparked by three three-pointers by Carlos Delfino — and pouring it on from there. On the night, the Rockets had 26 fast break points to the Jazz 2. James Harden had 25 to lead the Rockets, who got to rest their starters for the fourth and empty out the bench.

Warriors 114, Raptors 102: This was a fun game – up tempo, back and forth with plenty of lead changes, until the Warriors went on a 14-2 run in the fourth to take a comfortable lead. Toronto tried to claw back in late, but Klay Thompson had a steal from Jose Calderon and Harrison Barnes had a dunk that shut the door on any comeback. Warriors All-Star David Lee’s put up 21 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. The shock of the night was Aaron Gray with 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Raptors, he was fantastic for a night.

This was Andrew Bogut’s first game back from off-season ankle surgery and he looked good — 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in 25 minutes. The scary part for Warriors fans is Stephen Curry rolled his surgically-repaired right ankle in the third quarter and did not return. It was called a mild sprain but we will watch to see.

Kings 96, Wizards 94: This ended up being a very entertaining game, but with everything on the line Isaiah Thomas had 10 of his 22 in the fourth quarter, including a floater with one second left, to give the Kings a road win. If the Wizards want to express frustration for this one, don’t blame Garrett Temple for not keeping up with Thomas on the last play, blame the 20 turnovers (which the Kings converted to 23 points). That was the ballgame. Emeka Okafor had a big night with 23 points and 15 rebounds in the loss.

Here’s LeBron James trying on Lonzo Ball’s weirdo jump shooting form (VIDEO)

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Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range this season. That’s up a little more than six percent from last season, and three percent better than his career average. He doesn’t need much help there this season, but you know that LeBron is always looking for ways to improve.

Including, apparently, trying on UCLA star Lonzo Ball’s shooting form.

During warmups on Thursday before the Cavaliers took on the Chicago Bulls, LeBron messed around with Ball’s awkward shooting form. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an odd draw from right-to-left, with the right-handed Ball almost shooting from the left side of this face.

Ball was a 41.3 percent shooter from deep during his one season at UCLA and will be a top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, perhaps much to the chagrin of whichever team has to deal with his dad, LaVar.

Scottie Pippen throws blame for Knicks woes at feet of his former coach Phil Jackson

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Apparently, it’s not “be kind to your former boss month.”

Bulls legend and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen was on ESPN’s “The Jump” — the Rachel Nichols hosted NBA show on each afternoon — and the topic turned to how much the Knicks stink. And why. Of course, there’s plenty of blame to go around for just about everyone on that front, but Pippen threw his former coach under the bus (transcription via the New York Daily News).

“To be honest with you, I’m going to have to go at my old coach Phil Jackson,” Pippen said on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I think he just hasn’t put the right pieces on the floor. I give a lot of credit to Carmelo who is being very professional in getting through these 82 game season. And now he’s being benched to some degree, they’re taking a lot of his minutes away. But this team just hasn’t had it. They haven’t had it since Phil Jackson landed there. There hasn’t been any upside.”

After saying “fans would love to see Carmelo in New York and Phil out,” Pippen was asked by host Rachel Nichols if he believes Jackson “should be out.”

“Yes,” Pippen replied emphatically.

Most of Jackson’s former players have his back, most recently Shaquille O’Neal who laid blame at the feet of the Knicks’ players. The ones that Jackson assembled into a mismatched team.

Phil Jackson’s record may be 77-162 since taking over the Knicks, but reports are he isn’t going anywhere. While owner James Dolan can flip like a pancake on a griddle, the sense is that Jackson will keep collecting his $12 million annual salary and will keep trying to build a triangle-offense team. That means Carmelo Anthony likely gets moved this summer.

Jackson has seemingly fallen into the trap the Knicks have been unable to climb out of for years — since James Dolan took over as owner seemingly — of not just picking a system, sticking to it, being patient and avoiding quick fixes. Triangle, Rhombus, pick-and-roll heavy, whatever offense the Knicks use should be built around getting Kristaps Porzingis touches and playing to his strengths. Get younger players who fit that system to go around him and let it grow together. Be patient. Instead, it’s Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Jackson deserves blame. A significant amount. So do the players. So does Jeff Hornacek as coach. But make sure Dolan gets a big slice too, this team has struggled since he was given control, and he is the one constant.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.