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.

Report: Masai Ujiri’s salary about half what Phil Jackson’s was

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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James Dolan isn’t fixing the Knicks’ biggest problem – James Dolan.

But the owner took a step in the right direction a few years ago by pouring a ton of money into the front office. Of course, Dolan did it in the worst way. Offering a five-year, $60 million contract, he didn’t target general managers with proven track records of success. He hired front-office novice Phil Jackson, whose tenure was a wreck.

With Jackson out, will Dolan get it right this time?

The Knicks are reportedly interested in Raptors president Masai Ujiri, but it will be more complicated now, because Ujiri just signed a contract extension and the Knicks are still paying Jackson.

But can New York lure Ujiri from Toronto?

Michael Grange of Sportsnet:

As a source close to MLSE ownership told me Wednesday morning: “Don’t even waste your time on this.”

But as one NBA source put it: “This is not fake news, the Knicks will be coming hard.”

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Ujiri signed a five-year extension worth $32 million last September

Bruce Arthur of the Star:

All that just makes the Knicks more desperate for a new saviour, and league sources indicate the Knicks are already confident Ujiri is coming to New York.

Despite the contract, sources indicate Ujiri can leave if he wants to leave. It’s really up to him.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

As for reports that the Knicks were interested in Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, sources told ESPN that the Knicks have a deep respect for him, but he’s under contract and thus would require permission to speak to and compensation — likely draft picks — which the Knicks would be very reluctant to consider.

Dolan has the fortune to offer Ujiri a significant raise and buy him out of his Raptors contract. Money goes a long way in these negotiations, though it’s unclear how much Dolan would spend on a less-flashy name – and whether the Raptors want more than just cash.

Sending Toronto first-round picks as compensation would hurt the Knicks, but not as much as hiring another incompetent front-office head.

Will Ujiri land in New York? There are so many mixed signals, but it appears the Knicks at least have a chance.

Report: James Harden recruited Chris Paul to Rockets throughout season

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Chris Paul to the Rockets seemed to come out of nowhere.

It didn’t.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

According to one NBA executive, James Harden, the Rockets’ all-star guard, had been recruiting Paul throughout the season. An executive from another team said Harden had already told a fellow NBA player that Paul’s going to Houston was a done deal.

This is how the league works now. James Harden continues to be a enthusiastic recruiter, and that’s a huge asset to the Rockets. It goes toward explaining why Houston general manager Daryl Morey has bestowed so much faith in Harden.

The NBA has simply decided nothing players do constitutes tampering. So, Harden was free to convey Houston’s message to Paul – and this went beyond the typical bonding of two stars. The Rockets had to orchestrate a complex series of transactions, including getting Paul to waive most of his trade bonus, to make the deal work. Harden was part lead recruiter, part middleman communicating with the front office.

Getting Paul was truly the Harden-Morey partnership at its finest.

Report: Thunder have planned Blake Griffin pursuit for months

russell westbrook blake griffin
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The Clippers sound confident about re-signing Blake Griffin in the wake Chris Paul going to the Rockets.

But L.A. will have competition for the star forward – from the Nuggets, Celtics (depending how their primary plan goes), Heat and Griffin’s home-state Thunder.

Royce Young of ESPN:

It’s a shame for the Thunder they backed off their plan to sign Griffin last summer, signing Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo to contract extensions, only to resume it a few months later.

Letting Adams and Oladipo hit unrestricted free agency would have given Oklahoma City an additional $22,514,699 in cap flexibility while maintaining Adams’ and Oladipo’s Bird Rights. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to offer Griffin a max salary, but dumping Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and either Doug McDermott or Domantas Sabonis would’ve projected to get the Thunder there. In that scenario, Oklahoma City could have also exceeded the cap to re-sign Adams and Oladipo after inking Griffin.

Alas, the Thunder are now limited to dumping contributors that make the team appealing to someone like Griffin in the first place or executing a sign-and-trade. But a sign-and-trade gets complicated. Adams’ salary alone isn’t enough to return Griffin on a max, and it’s not even clear the Clippers – with DeAndre Jordan – would want Adams (though losing Griffin could initiate an even greater rebuild that includes trading Jordan). And again, the Clippers reportedly want to keep Griffin rather than go this route.

This was all foreseeable, though some surprising factors worsened the consequences of the extensions for Oklahoma City.

Griffin seemed more certain last summer to stay in L.A. The 2017-18 salary cap appeared on track to be higher. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement won’t raise cap holds for first-round picks until next year. So, Adams’ deal projects to save the Thunder just $6,425,000 over the next four years relative to a max offer sheet – a paltry sum in the face of the potential cap flexibility lost this year by extending him instead of waiting to re-sign him.

The Thunder making moves earlier than necessary and salary-cap developments turning those plans especially imprudent – where have I heard this one before?

Report: Gordon Hayward will meet first with Heat in free agency, then Jazz, then Celtics

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Gordon Hayward is arguably the biggest available prize in free agency, and his dance card for the first couple of days in July is filling up.

Miami and Pat Riley will bat lead off in a series of meetings, reports ESPN.

Gordon Hayward will take his first free-agent meeting with the Miami Heat on Saturday, a source told ESPN’s Jorge Sedano. Hayward will then be traveling Sunday to meet Utah on Monday, with Boston coming after that…

Sources previously told ESPN the Jazz regard the Heat as no less a threat to lure Hayward away than the Celtics, whose interest in the former Butler star has been anticipated for some time, largely thanks to the presence of Hayward’s college coach, Brad Stevens, on Boston’s bench.

For the record, there are rumors it’s Miami Saturday, Boston Sunday, Utah Monday, then he will take some time to make a decision. I’m not sure the order matters that much.

Hayward is an All-Star level player at a position of need for a lot of teams out on the wing. He averaged 21.9 points per game last season, shot 39.8 percent from three, can put the ball on the floor and be a playmaker for himself and others, plus can defend everything from stretch fours to point guards (he’s not a lock-down defender, but he is good). Hayward is the kind of versatile player teams need to compete in a modern NBA. He’s an elite wing player who is about to get paid like one.

The question is by whom? Around the league teams are convinced it will be one of those three, but which one depends on who you talk to. The Jazz seem confident they can retain him, where others seem confident he’s got one foot out the door. Only Hayward truly knows, and he’s wise to not speak on it and take the meetings. (If he takes his time deciding that could impact the chase for Blake Griffin, Miami and Boston reportedly have interest if they don’t land Gordon, but that can’t be Gordon’s concern. He has to do what’s right for him in his own time.)