Sacramento Kings v Boston Celtics

Baseline to Baseline recaps: For one night at least Celtics look fine post-Rondo


Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while thinking you may have finally found the perfect job

Suns 92, Lakers 86: Ouch. You can apply that one word sentence to Dwight Howard’s shoulder, he left the game midway through the fourth quarter and did not return, seeming to aggravate his torn labrum. Or, you can apply the first sentence to the Lakers fourth quarter. Either way it was Michael Beasley’s world and the Lakers just lived in it. Brett Pollakoff broke the game down for us.

Heat 105, Nets 95: Note to Reggie Evans — you may not want to insult LeBron James, you might make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Evans did, saying the Heat’s lockout title didn’t count, and LeBron responded with 24 points and 9 rebounds in the Heat win. Miami owned the second half, and we broke all the details of the game down.

Celtics 99, Kings 81: If you want to ease into the rest of the season without your star point guard, the Kings are a good team to do it against. The Kings hung around for a quarter and a half in the Garden and then the Celtics bench started the onslaught with a 16-2 run — Boston scored 37 points in the second quarter and the rout was on. That second quarter was about as good as Boston can play and when they play like that they can threaten any team. It’s a blueprint for what they want to do the rest of the season.

Paul Pierce had 16 points to lead six Celtics in double figures. Tyreke Evans had 19 for the Kings. One thing of concern for the Celtics — Jared Sullinger left the game in the first half with back spasms not to return. He battled back issues in college. It’s just something to watch.

Bulls 104, Bucks 88: There are nights Nate Robinson can shoot you out of a game, and then there are the nights he can pretty much win you a game. Wednesday night was in the latter category for the Bulls — Robinson had 16 second quarter points, half of the 32 the Bulls put up in the period as they pulled away for a comfortable win. It wasn’t just Robinson off the bench, he had help from Jimmy Butler who has been playing well of late and had 18 in this one. Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks with 18 points but needed 18 shots to do it.

Clippers 96, Timberwolves 90: Blake Griffin was dominating. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds through three quarters, and Minnesota looked hopeless to stop him.

But then the fourth quarter came and *woosh*, there Griffin went. Disappeared right out of thin air. In a close game down the stretch, he had no points and no shots attempts in the whole quarter. Just as it looked like Minnesota was about to steal a win despite their poor perimeter shooting, Griffin reappeared at just the right time with an impossibly tricky bank shot that served as the dagger.
—D.J. Foster

Pacers 98, Pistons 79: This was a shorthanded Pistons team with Tayshaun Prince — the last member of the 2004 championship team still on the roster — and Austin Daye out for this game and Jose Calderon not in yet. But this game really just followed the trends — the Pacers have now won 12 in a row at home while the Pistons are 5-17 on the road. Greg Monroe tried for Detroit (18 points) but the Pistons couldn’t handle the Pacers size — Roy Hibbert had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Tyler Hansbrough added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Knicks 113, Magic 97: This was close in the first half because the Magic back court was hot — guards and 35 of Orlando’s 51 first half points. J.J. Redick started out 7-of-7, Jameer Nelson was 7-of-11 in the first half. It was still just a six-point Knicks lead after three quarters when the Knicks offense exploded for 34 points on 63 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. The onslaught wasn’t just one guy — 10 Knicks scored in the quarter, Steve Novak had the most points at 8. It was a team effort. For the game Tyson Chandler had 21 points (on 11 shots) and Carmelo Anthony had 20.

The big news for Orlando is that Glen Davis broke his foot and is most likely done for the season now.

Nuggets 118, Rockets 110: You knew this was going to be an up and down game and we weren’t disappointed (109 possessions, according to the stats one of the fastest this season). It made the game entertaining. The Rockets averaged the fastest pace in the league so you thought they would be comfortable there and it showed — they never really pulled away but they led 85-77 with a minute left in the third quarter when the Nuggets went on a 24-3 run to take the lead and pull away for the win. That is five straight for Denver, which went 12-3 in January.

As you expect in these games there were some big offensive numbers: Danilo Gallinari scored 27 points (on 17 shots, plus he had 4 blocks), Kenneth Faried added 19, Ty Lawson 16, Andre Iguodala 15; for Houston Jeremy Lin had 22, James Harden and Chandler Parsons 21.

Spurs 102, Bobcats 78: Really, how did you think this game was going to end? The Spurs have won nine straight overall and 17 in a row at home. With the win, Gregg Popovich will coach the Western Conference All-Stars as the Spurs will have the best record in the West come the Sunday cut off. You can bet he’s thrilled, he’s much rather coach an exhibition game in Houston than be home sipping wine with friends and having three days off.

Sixers 92, Wizards 84: In the battle of Jrue Holiday vs. John Wall… nobody won, really. Holiday was better with 21 points but he needed 22 shots while Wall was 3-of-12 shooting. Holiday had six turnovers to Wall’s five.

Philadelphia took control of the game with a 13-3 run in the second quarter and when the Wizards made a run to make it close in the third the Sixers responded with a 17-5 run. Nick Young gunned his way to 18 for Philly. Emeka Okafor had another strong night for Washington with 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Hawks 93, Raptors 92: The Raptors were shorthanded — Jose Calderon and Ed Davis had been shipped out and Rudy Gay had yet to arrive, but they still put up a real fight. In fact, they should have had free throws to win.

Atlanta went ahead on a pretty play where Al Horford set a screen off the ball for Kyle Korver, Horford’s defender Aaron Gray tried to cut off a pass to Korver at the arc so Horford rolled and flashed to the paint, Josh Smith had the ball at the top of the arc and passed to Horford in the paint for a dunk. But Toronto had time for a final shot.

Kyle Lowry tried to drive the lane but Al Horford rejected it, but the Raptors recovered and Alan Anderson missed a jumper with 4.9 seconds left, but DeMar DeRozan got the offensive board. He went up and was fouled by Horford but there was no call. It is official a block, Horford gathered the ball and tossed it down the court, and that was the ballgame.

Jazz 104, Hornets 99: Ugly wins count the same as pretty ones. The Jazz will take this, it wasn’t a dominant performance against a team on the second night of a back-to-back and missing its best player (Eric Gordon was out resting his knee), but it’s a win nonetheless. The Jazz front line was strong — Paul Millsap had 25 points and Al Jefferson added 22.

The Jazz carried over some of their 45-point loss to the Rockets and were down early, but they bounced back with an 11-2 run in the second and eventually took a lead.

Duncan-less Spurs eager for another run at NBA postseason

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9), of France, talks with forward Kawhi Leonard during the second half of the team's preseason NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs responded to their most successful regular season in franchise history with the greatest turnover in Gregg Popovich’s two decades with the team.

Tim Duncan’s retirement played a large role in the reconstruction, but so did losing in six games to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinals.

Duncan is gone along with veterans Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner and late-season additions Andre Miller and Kevin Martin. While San Antonio added another veteran in Pau Gasol, they also brought in a lot of youth and athleticism as they prepared for life without Duncan, the power forward who led the franchise to five NBA titles in 19 seasons.

“Right now we don’t know what we’re going to miss on the floor because we haven’t been through the season yet,” Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard said. “(But) just knowing he’s not here, his personality isn’t here. Jokes that he makes during practice, that’s the things I’m missing right now.”

Duncan will be with the team occasionally as an unofficial assistant coach, but San Antonio is placing the team squarely in Leonard’s hands. The 6-foot-7 forward finished second in MVP balloting after averaging a career-high 21.2 points and 6.8 rebounds last season. He also was named Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.

After spending his first five seasons adding a pull-up jumper and honing his 3-point shooting, Leonard spent this offseason working on something else: “Just becoming a leader. Just making sure I know what’s going on on the floor at every position. Just getting ready to get my mentality of just leading the group this year.”

Leonard’s evolution as a leader should be aided by Gasol. The 17-year veteran won two NBA championships while with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“One thing that makes me feel a little better with (Duncan’s) loss is Pau Gasol,” Popovich said. “He is a very intelligent man and he understands how to play and he’s played for a lot of good people. That’s going to help us in that loss, but having said that, it will take time to get all the new guys to understanding exactly how we play and who goes with whom.”

Gasol averaged 16.5 points and 11.0 rebounds for Chicago last season while earning his sixth All-Star appearance. Duncan averaged 8.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in the final season of a Hall of Fame career.

Gasol’s numbers will likely drop this season, though, as San Antonio will continue to develop around Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“It starts with me and L.A. first,” Leonard said. “If we win a championship, it’s going to be up to us to lead the group.”

The duo earned All-Star berths last season while leading San Antonio to a franchise-record 67 victories. But the Spurs dropped four of five games to the Thunder in the West semifinals and San Antonio knew changes were needed. The Spurs drafted 6-foot-5 point guard Dejounte Murray and brought in 2011 second-round pick Davis Bertans at forward along with signing 7-foot center Dewayne Dedmon along with David Lee.

Some other things to know about the Spurs, who open the season Tuesday night at Golden State:


Aldridge struggled to fit into the team’s offense in the first half of last season, but closed strongly to lead the team in rebounding and finish second in scoring. He said he was not bothered by reports San Antonio was willing to trade him.

“(Popovich is) a pretty direct person and this organization is first-class, so if that was the issue, I would have known way before the media knew,” Aldridge said. “So, I wasn’t worried about it at all.”


Point guard Tony Parker suffered a drop in scoring for his third straight season, which is a product of the team’s evolution rather than any decline in his game. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 11.9 points last season, but he had a career-low 1.8 turnovers per game and shot 49 percent from the field. It was the third time in four seasons that Parker has shot 49 percent or better from the field. He also shot 42 percent on 3-pointers, marking the second straight season he has shot over 40 percent on 3s. Fellow veteran Manu Ginobili said he will not decide if this his last season until after it’s done.


After averaging 7.9 points and shooting 47 percent on 3-pointers in 15 games for Baskonia in the Euroleague last season, Bertans is averaging 5.4 points and shooting 31 percent on 3-pointers in five preseason games for the Spurs. He has astounded his teammates with his leaping ability especially after right ACL surgery twice in the past three years.

“I think in the second ACL they put something special in there,” Bertans said.


Dedmon is expected to be one of the team’s primary frontcourt reserves if he can stay on the court. The 7-footer has struggled with foul trouble in his career, averaging 2.1 fouls in just 13.1 minutes per game. He is averaging 3.2 fouls in five preseason games, including fouling out in 22 minutes in San Antonio’s preseason opener against Phoenix.


Gasol has stepping into Duncan’s spot in numerous ways, not just in the starting lineup. Gasol has taken Duncan’s spot standing next to Parker and Ginobili during the national anthem and is also handling tip-off duties.

Damian Lillard’s goal for season: Win MVP

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) poses for a photograph during NBA basketball media day in Portland, Ore., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
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When the PBT staff made our predictions for MVP you saw some expected names — LeBron James, James Harden — and a smart pick off some people’s radar in Kawhi Leonard. Russell Westbrook was discussed as someone with a chance.

What about Damian Lillard? You know, the hip-hop star.

Lillard told a Jay Allen of Portland area Fox Sports Radio that’s his goal.

Lillard averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists per game last season, he is unquestionably a dynamic offensive force — he has a great pull up jumper and he can get to the rim and finish. Plus, he’s just entertaining to watch.

But MVP? That’s going to take more than numbers.

Portland won 44 games last season. The MVP almost always goes to the best player on a top two or three seed, meaning a team winning around 55 games or more. For Portland to add 10 wins or so and get Lillard noticed in the MVP race is going to be about defense — Portland was bottom 10 last season in defense and they need to be at least middle of the pack this time around. Which comes back to Lillard on some level, he’s often an overmatched defender and he can lose focus on that end. He’s gotten better over the years, but Lillard is going to have to lift up the Blazers defense, not just offense, to get in the MVP discussion.

I’m skeptical (of Lillard’s chances and the Trail Blazers taking a step forward), but we all underestimated Portland last season, too.

LeBron James says he can still win MVP with reduced workload, cites Stephen Curry

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 02:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers with the ball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter in Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The door is open for LeBron James to win a legacy-altering fifth MVP.

But his Cavaliers could also win another championship, leaving Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue planning to limit LeBron’s minutes in preparation of a long playoff run.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN

“No,” James said Saturday when asked if he was concerned that planned rest could affect his MVP case. “Because Steph played 31 minutes a game and he won the MVP.”

“Well, I’ve never set into a season saying I want to win MVP,” he said. “I’ve always thought of the season saying I want to be MVP for my team and it’s resulted in me getting four of them. So I’ve been available, for the most part, every night and I’ve been available on both sides of the floor. I’ve been healthy.

Curry won 2015 MVP while playing 32.7 minutes per game, the fewest by any MVP. He played 34.2 minutes per game last season, third-fewest by an MVP – ahead of just himself and 1978 Bill Walton, who played 33.3 minutes per game.

To contrast, LeBron has set career lows the last two seasons with 36.1 and 35.6 minutes per game. So, LeBron could get a reduced workload and still play more than Curry did.

But Curry, to some degree is an anomaly. He often sat late in games with his Warriors on the right side of blowouts. The Cavs aren’t good enough regularly rest LeBron as much in those situations.

It’s not that voters care directly about minutes. But the less LeBron plays, the lower his per-game averages will be and the less Cleveland will win. Those factors matter significantly.

LeBron can overcome that. He’s darned good, and there could be a push to reward him after the last two Finals have shown he’s still better than Curry when it matters most.

Playing fewer minutes per game won’t eliminate LeBron from the MVP race, not even close. But it will – and should – hurt his case. After all, MVP should reward the player who does the most to help his team win. MVP-caliber players don’t significantly help while sitting on the bench.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder prepare for life without Kevin Durant

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a preseason game at American Airlines Center on October 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Maybe life after Kevin Durant won’t be so bad for the Thunder.

After the longtime face of the franchise left for Golden State, crestfallen Oklahoma City fans were worried it was just a matter of time before the team’s co-star, Russell Westbrook, would follow suit. In a move that shocked many, Westbrook re-signed with Oklahoma City. The former scoring champion and two-time All-Star MVP’s return gives the team hope.

New faces such as shooting guard Victor Oladipo and forward Domantas Sabonis, both acquired in the deal that sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando, might take some time to fit in. Westbrook believes the team is talented enough to succeed if it is focused and the new pieces blend with the old ones who helped the Thunder reach the Western Conference Finals last season.

“Just play hard, man,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know, win or lose. The only thing I know is that as long as we play hard, we give ourselves an opportunity to win.”

Westbrook could post historic numbers. He averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds last season and had 18 triple-doubles, the most since Magic Johnson had 18 during the 1981-82 season. Without Durant, more of that could be on the way.

Sabonis, a rookie out of Gonzaga who played for Lithuania’s Olympic team, played with the starters throughout the preseason. Oladipo averaged 15.9 points and 4.0 assists in three years with Orlando. He joins Westbrook to form arguably the most athletic backcourt tandem in the NBA.

“Defensively, I think we can be the best defensive backcourt in the league because we can do different things with our size and using our length and our speed,” Westbrook said.

Here are some things to watch for the Thunder:

Steven Adams

The 7-footer from New Zealand was already a top-notch defender and rebounder before stepping up his offense and averaging 10.1 points during the playoffs last season. In his final two preseason games, he scored 20 points against Minnesota and 17 points against Denver. He could be a breakout star.

“I think we’ve had an opportunity these last two nights (against Minnesota and Denver) how good he is around the basket, how smart he has become and how much of a presence he is in the middle,” Westbrook said.

Enes Kanter

The natural expectation was that Ibaka’s departure would prompt coach Billy Donovan to move Kanter, who finished third in balloting for the league’s sixth-man award last season, into the starting lineup. Instead, Donovan started Sabonis throughout the preseason. Perhaps Donovan knows best – Sabonis showed he can hang with the starters, and Kanter averaged 17.8 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 61.7 percent in the preseason.


Oklahoma City’s defense could slip with Ibaka in Orlando. Sabonis has great potential, but he’s young, and NBA defense takes some time to learn. Donovan said Sabonis has caught on quickly, but there still could be a dip early because Ibaka’s level of play is difficult to replace – he was a three-time first-team All-NBA defender and a two-time blocks leader.


The Thunder added several foreign players to the roster who will add depth – Spain’s Alex Abrines, France’s Joffrey Lauvergne and Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova. Donovan said he likes the maturity foreign players add to a team. Abrines played for Spain’s national team that earned bronze medals at the Olympics. Lauvergne played for France in Rio.


Andre Roberson has shifted from the starting shooting guard to starting small forward. That means the Thunder still have Roberson’s dynamic athletic ability, defensive prowess and nose for the ball on the boards in the lineup. He was a liability on offense in the past, but he started becoming more of a factor on offense during the playoffs last season.

“I think he feels more comfortable and confident offensively,” Donovan said. “He’s put forth effort in that area. It’s just him continuing to grow offensively and trying to put him in situations where he slashes to the basket and he can cut and he can get out in transition and he can take his open corner threes.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP