Baseline to Baseline recaps: Pacers win with offense. Again.

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching a toddler drain trick shot after trick shot

Lakers 92, Nets 83: Up until this game I was still sure the Lakers were not a playoff team, that the recent streak would not be enough for the hole they dug. But they pushed through adversity in this game and it’s the first time I said “maybe.” They may have to do it all without Pau Gasol for a while, but they looked like a team that could. Brett Pollakoff broke the game down for us.

Rockets 140, Warriors 109: Houston tied the NBA record by hitting 23 three-pointers. But really it got interesting at the end when Warriors coach Mark Jackson made sure his players knew not to let that become 24. D.J. Foster broke the game down for us.

Pacers 114, Hawks 103: On the season, the Pacers have won with as good a defense as there is in the NBA making up for an offense that scores just a point a possession (22nd in the league, according to NBA.com). But Monday night against the Bulls the Pacers scored at a 120 points per 100 possessions pace, and that carried over to Tuesday night against the Hawks when it was 114.5. Indy has broken into triple digits in five of their last six games. Keep that up while still paying defense and the Pacers become a real threat.

The Pacers took control of the game in the third quarter, which was when Paul George scored 11 of his 29 points, then George added another 11 in the fourth. The Pacers bench — D.J. Augustin and Ian Mahinmi in particular — helped the Pacers push out that lead in the third. We saw some good play from Roy Hibbert as well, a good sign if you are a Pacers fan. That is 15 straight wins at home for the Pacers.

The strangest part of this game was the 10 minute delay in the third quarter while referees Bill Kennedy, Josh Tiven, and Scott Wall tried to make one call. Augustin had the ball on the right wing and drove, and the Hawks Al Horford came over to cut off his drive. Augustin stepped around him but to create space elbowed Horford in the gut, then Horford came down with both of his arms hard. So was the foul on Augustin for the initial elbow or Horford for the hard foul after? The refs watched the video and gave a technical to Augustin and a flagrant I to Horford. It was a strange call that left nobody happy.

Nuggets 112, Bucks 104: The Bucks led this pretty much the entire way and looked in control until Denver closed the game on a 19-4 run to get the win. Danilo Gallinari had 8 of his 22 in the fourth quarter, including one crazy trick shot during the comeback that was the sure sign this was Denver’s night after all. But it really was the Nuggets defense down the stretch that was key for them — faced with ball pressure the Bucks went away from the ball movement that worked all game for them and fell to isolation ball.

But the best player on the floor for the night was Samuel Dalembert, who had a career high 35 points plus pulled down 12 boards. It looked like he was going to carry the Bucks to victory, but then Denver’s late surge changed that. Ty Lawson also had 22 for Denver.

Suns 96, Grizzlies 90: This game was tied 88-88 with two minutes to go and that’s when the Memphis just came apart. Marc Gasol had fouled out and Darrell Arthur had an ugly turnover, some missed defensive assignments and generally looked like a guys who shot 1-of-10 on the night. Why do the Grizzlies seem to ignore Zach Randolph at the end of games? Meanwhile Goran Dragic kept attacking — he had 15 points in the fourth quarter and was the difference maker late making baskets and drawing fouls. Marcin Gortat chipped in 20 for the Suns.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”

 

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.

Sixers to keep Joel Embiid’s minutes in teens to start season, he’s not happy

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Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.

He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.

Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.

“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”

“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”

The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.

That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.

The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.

Report: Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge to two-year, $50 million contract extension

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From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.

Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.

This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.