Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Kings take Heat two overtimes

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while scrolling through the Florida Man twitter feed….

Heat 141, Kings 129 (2OT): What looked like a blowout on paper ended up being the best game of the night. The Kings may deny it was a moral victory for them, but it was. They were scrappy all night, they played with a fight you wish we had seen all season. It LeBron James taking over in the second overtime with 11 points in 3 assists to get Miami it’s 12th straight win.

I don’t know that you can say Marcus Thornton outplayed the Heat’s wing players but he had 36 points of his own, while Tyreke Evans had 26 and Isaiah Thomas added 14 — they consistently got into the paint and knocked down shots. Then there was DeMarcus Cousins, who overpowered the Heat front line at points and had 24 points.

By the way, your mind blowing LeBron stat of the night is not his line of 40 points, 16 assists and 8 rebounds. No, it’s that by shooting 14-of-23 he becomes the first player to shoot 64 percent in a calendar month (minimum of 200 shots) since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1983.

Pacers 108, Warriors 97: Hey, there was a basketball game to go with the fight. Although who wants to talk about anything but the fight? Roy Hibbert is going to miss at least a game for throwing Stephen Curry around like he is half his size… well he is, but Hibbert still can’t just throw him around like that during a shoving match.

After that incident, when the Pacers were already up 10, it was David West who took over and made sure the Pacers held on for their fifth straight double-digit win. West finished with 28, George Hill had 23 and both he and Curry — who may have been the best player on the floor and finished with 38 points — seemed to score at will on difficult shots. In the end the Pacers were simply too much.

Magic 98, Sixers 84: Philadelphia has reached a new low. But don’t take my word for it, ask Philly coach Doug Collins.

After leading 29-20 the Sixers coasted while the Magic (as they have most of the season) played hard for Jacque Vaughn. Six Orlando players were in double figures, led by Tobias Harris and Arron Afflalo with 16. Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic finished with 12 points and 19 rebounds. Meanwhile for Philly everyone was off: Jrue Holiday shot 4-for-11, Thaddeus Young was 4-of-11 also, Nick Young finished 1-for-6 and Evan Turner was 2-for-7. It wasn’t pretty. Ask Doug Collins.

Cavaliers 101, Bulls 96: In an alternate universe where Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose are healthy this game is a lot more interesting.

Chicago finally put up some points but this time their usually stout defense couldn’t stop the Cavaliers most of the game. Especially when it mattered. A Kirk Hinrich three made it a one-point game inside three minutes. But the Cavaliers answered with a couple of buckets from Dion Waiters (who finished with 25), and a bucket from Luke Walton might have been the dagger. Actually, the Dagger was with 15 seconds left when a hustling Walton stole a lazy Carlos Boozer inbound pass.

Nets 101, Hornets 97: Brooklyn thought this was a game they would be able to sit their starters the fourth quarter and relax. They took the lead with a 9-0 run early in the first quarter, had that all the way up to 22 in the second quarter and thought they had a laugher. But the Hornets got serious on defense (the Nets shot just 35.9 percent in the second half) and chipped away until this was as close as a two-point ballgame late.

Deron Williams took charge and scored the Nets last 11 points to secure the win, and he finished with 33 points and 8 assists. Brook Lopez added 20 points and Keith Bogans was key late with three from beyond the arc. Greivis Vasquez had 20 to lead the Hornets.

Bucks 95, Mavericks 90: This was a vintage Dirk Nowitzki performance — 21 points and 20 rebounds. He seemed to do everything. But with this Mavericks roster that is just not enough some nights. Monta Ellis had 11 fourth quarter points (22 for the game) and sparked Milwaukee to finish the game on a 12-2 run and get the win. J.J. Redick was second on the Bucks with 14 points. Losses like this kill any Dallas playoff dreams.

Clippers 106, Bobcats 84: You wouldn’t know it from the final score but this was a close game with the Bobcats leading much of the first half. But the Bobcats got away from the cardinal rule of beating the Clippers — take away the easy dunks in transition — late in the first half and a few Blake Griffin dunks fired up the team. A late 15-3 first half run by the Clippers was the beginning of the end. Griffin had 24 points, Chris Paul finished with 13 assists and the Clippers rolled to a win.

Suns 84, Timberwolves 83 (OT): Well, somebody had to win this game. The Suns led by as many as 18 in the first half but the Timberwolves guards sparked runs in the fourth quarter to make it close — J.J. Barea had 12 points and Ricky Rubio had 7 assists in the fourth quarter alone.

The overtime was close the entire way but a P.J. Tucker fast-break layup gave Minnesota a four-point lead. The teams traded buckets then a Derrick Williams three made it a one-point game. The Suns tried to ice it but Nikola Pekovic blocked a Wesley Johnson shot and the Timberwolves got one final shot at it. Alexey Shved drove the lane but his contested layup rolled off the rim and the Suns hung on for the win.

Thunder’s Paul George finding his role, doing a little bit of everything for new team

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder coach Billy Donovan can’t pinpoint the best thing about Paul George.

Oklahoma City’s versatile forward averages just over 20 points per game, leads the league in steals and is third in 3-point goals while shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.

“I think that’s what makes him the player he is,” Donovan said. “There’s a lot of players in the league that are great offensive players, but they’re not great defensive players. I think arguably, it would be hard to make a case either way of what end of the floor he’s better on, offense or defense, because he’s that special.”

George believes he’s having an All-Star season in first year with Oklahoma City after being traded from the Indiana Pacers. There have been challenges as he has tried to fit in with superstars Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony and it’s still unclear where he will play next season because of his upcoming free agency.

Still, he has remained focused enough to be a top-notch performer. As he has found his way, the Thunder have rallied from an 8-12 start and have gone 17-8 since heading into Saturday’s game at Cleveland.

“He can score it, attack the rim and he defends,” Lakers rookie guard Kyle Kuzma said. “Anytime you do that, you’re going to be a pretty damn good player.”

George was first team All-Defense in 2014 and second-team in 2013 and 2016, and he was a defensive stopper for Team USA when it won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He says without hesitation that he wants to be Defensive Player of the Year this season and feels he should have won the award in the past.

“I think I have the makeup, I think I have the intangibles,” George told The Associated Press. “I’m physically capable of doing the things necessary. I thought 2013-14 I thought I was hands down the best perimeter defender on the league and I thought I was overlooked.”

George is averaging a career-best 2.2 steals per game. Having another top-notch perimeter defender in Andre Roberson to share some of the responsibility allows him to gamble more than in the past. He also credits carrying less of the offensive load.

“It gives me more energy, not having to create or generate offense every possession,” George said. “I can conserve energy that way. It allows me to really ramp up the defense on the other end, which is another reason why I’ve been able to accumulate so many steals. I have the energy, the endurance to keep flying around and keep being productive.”

An example of his all-around play this season was a five-steal performance against the Sacramento Kings. He made just 7 of 17 shots but was a critical factor in Oklahoma City’s win.

He hasn’t always emphasized defense, but he was forced to as a rookie for the Pacers during the 2010-11 season. Frank Vogel took over as coach at midseason and saw enough grit and improvement on that end to insert him into the starting lineup in March. He came of age during the playoff series that season against the Chicago Bulls when he faced league MVP Derrick Rose. George gave up some points, but he battled and helped the Pacers hold Rose to 37 percent shooting in the series.

“My mindset was I knew I was outmatched from a standpoint of staying in front of him,” George said. “That’s what really got me going in trying to think things through, trying to see what I can do that can disrupt the MVP. I tried to use my length. I tried to make it as hard as possible. I knew he was going to get his 20s, get his 30s, but how can I make it as hard as possible, and how can I wear this guy down? You’re not going to be able to shut down a guy like that at that stage.”

From that point, George embraced the role of defensive stopper while evolving into an all-around offensive player. He was the league’s Most Improved Player in 2013 and made the first of his four All-Star appearances. Last season, he averaged a career-best 23.7 points for the Pacers. Now, he can still create when needed and he has learned to be more of a catch-and-shoot scorer.

“He’s a beast out there,” Kings guard Buddy Hield said. “He’s great. He can score the ball from three, the mid-range and the post. He’s tough to guard so you have to pick your poison with him, and it’s hard to do.”

Three Kemba Walker trades that could work for both sides

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Kemba Walker doesn’t want to be traded.

Michael Jordan and the Charlotte front office are exploring the idea anyway.

As they should. The Hornets are stuck in the NBA’s purgatory of a middle-ground with one All-Star level player in Walker and not enough around him to make this team a threat. The Hornets are 17.3 points per 100 possessions better when Walker is on the court — when he plays they look like a borderline playoff team, when he sits they are a disaster. Because of some big contracts, that situation is not likely to change. Charlotte may finally be proactive with this — trade Walker but attach a bad contract to it, and get some pieces to jump-start a rebuild back. That’s less than ideal in a smaller market like Charlotte, but it’s the right basketball move — test the market and see if they can get an offer that works for them.

Here are three potential trades that would fit the parameters being discussed. These are not likely, but this is the kind of deals that we would see.

Kemba Walker to the New York Knicks

Charlotte gets: Frank Ntilikina, Ron Baker, and either Jarrett Jack or Lance Thomas

New York gets: Kemba Walker

The ups and downs of slowly rebuilding do not play well in New York — and right now they are in a downward spin after a fast start to the season. Still, the Knicks are just 2.5 games out of the playoffs in the East and Walker instantly puts them back in the playoff conversation. Walker gives New York another shot creator and scoring threat, someone to run pick-and-pops with Kristaps Porzingis, set up Tim Hardaway Jr., and just improve an offense that is middle of the pack. For the Hornets, they get the point guard of the future in Ntilikina, one building block as they move forward. This might be the best deal for the Hornets — if the Knicks would consider moving Ntilikina. That is far from certain.

Kemba Walker to the Detroit Pistons

Charlotte gets: Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, draft picks, plus some other players to make the salaries fit such as Anthony Tolliver.

Detroit gets: Walker and Marvin Williams.

The promise of the Jackson/Andre Drummond connection in Detroit has faded, and Walker would bring the spark and scoring that the Pistons need to be a real threat come the postseason. I like this for Detroit, but less so because Jackson has two-years, $35 million left on his contract after next season, and that’s a lot of money to take on for a team trying to strip it down. That said, if the Hornets think they can develop Johnson on offense (he’s good defensively, a black hole on offense) and the picks are good, they should consider it.

Kemba Walker to the Cleveland Cavaliers

Charlotte gets: Isaiah Thomas, the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick (plus another player to make the money work such as Channing Frye

Cleveland gets: Kemba Walker, maybe another deep bench player to round out the salary.

This seems the longest shot. Cleveland wants to upgrade their backcourt, that’s why they are talking to Sacramento about George Hill. However, the talk around the league is the Cavaliers are not moving that Brooklyn pick for anything less than a total game changer who makes them a real threat to Golden State. Is that Walker? Probably not. This is also probably not a move Cleveland makes unless it thinks Thomas is not going to get back to All-Star level performance, but if they think that’s not going to happen this would be a serious upgrade. The Hornets would do this to get the Nets pick, giving them a couple of lottery picks (their own is the other) in this draft to start a rebuild.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell both make return from injury tonight

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Let’s try something different: How about some good injury news for a change?

Going through the roughest part of their schedule without their Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert, the Utah Jazz have fallen out of the playoff picture in the West. The good news is Gobert is back starting Friday night.

The Brooklyn Nets took on a lot of salary (hello Timofey Mozgov) to get ahold of and see if they could develop D'Angelo Russell into their point guard of the future. However, he has been out since Nov. 12 and had to get his knee scoped to solve some issues. Now he is back as of Friday against Miami, and the Nets will again be able to get a look at him (as he heads into restricted free agency).

Neither of these returns are turning these teams into playoff teams, but they do help.

Brooklyn is not about the playoffs this season, but their gritty performances this season have picked up enough wins to frustrate Cavaliers fans (the Cavs have their pick in this draft). The Jazz are not completely out of the playoffs, but they are five games back in a deep Western conference and that will be hard to make up without some help. Getting Gobert back at least gives the Jazz a chance, and it’s an opportunity for Gobert and rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell to start to develop some chemistry.

Report: Cavaliers interested in George Hill trade with Kings

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When the Sacramento Kings made the much-maligned move to sign three veterans this summer to healthy contracts — George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter — there were three reasons for it. Two the Kings were very public about: They wanted mentors for the 10 young players on their roster, and they had to get up to the salary floor anyway.

The third, less discussed reason is those guys might make decent trade chips. Especially as the Kings move toward playing their youth more (as they should).

Enter the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are stumbling through the East right now and have reached out to the Kings about a potential trade for Hill, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

In an effort to bolster their backcourt situation, the Cleveland Cavaliers are expressing interest in a trade for Sacramento Kings guard George Hill, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Cleveland has emerged as an interested suitor, with the Cavaliers pursuing Hill to potentially slide into a dual-guard role, starting at either backcourt position or playing as a reserve, league sources said.

The Cavaliers are starting Isaiah Thomas at the point, with the assumption that he will find his groove as his conditioning improves and he gets used to playing next to LeBron James, however, they have had issues at the two spot. J.R. Smith starts there now with Dwyane Wade and Kyle Korver (both really more threes) behind him, but with Iman Shumpert out due to a foot injury the Cavaliers could use backcourt depth.

George Hill appears to have taken a step back this season, but he is still a solid guard who can shoot the three (45 percent this season) and be a good floor general. He could be a better backup point guard than Derrick Rose. Hill is not a season changer for Cleveland, but he would give them some solid depth and versatility.

The problem is money — Hill signed a three-year, $57 million deal with the Kings. The Kings might be open to a Hill for Tristan Thompson and a second rounder deal (no way Hill earns a first, even a Cavs late one).

The Cavaliers are also pursuing DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Pulling off both would be nearly impossible. The Clippers will ask for the Brooklyn Nets pick, something the Cavaliers reportedly would not throw into this deal (they would throw in their own first, in the 20s), but even if they work that out it would require Tristan Thompson and his salary to make it work, and then it’s hard to  make the salaries match for Hill.

Consider it something to watch. The Cavaliers know have to get better at the trade deadline, although they have no plans to move the Brooklyn Nets pick. The Kings are open to the idea of a trade. It’s a first step.