LeBron James,

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.

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.

Report: 76ers trading Ersan Ilyasova to Hawks for Tiago Splitter, picks

Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Dunleavy blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 110-93. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis
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The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.

That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.

But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.

And Atlanta will get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.

In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.

Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.

Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George becomes more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.