Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Every game from the most entertaining night of NBA season

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching the rest of the legendary “pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” commercial….

Knicks 109, Warriors 105: Stephen Curry was the story… except for the part where his team didn’t win the game. That’s not on him — 54 points on 28 shots and 11-of-13 from three, he did his part. The Knicks kept throwing different defenses at him and he either would attack the rim or just step back another few feet and knock it down anyway.

Golden State was without All-Star David Lee (suspended) yet Curry tied the game 105-105 with a couple free throws at 2:04 remaining. But the Warriors had gone cold — they never made a shot from the field in the final 3:30. That was enough for the Knicks to get the win. Carmelo Anthony had a big night himself with 35 points, J.R. Smith had 26 off the bench. Tyson Chandler also was a beast with 28 boards. The Knicks team effort was enough to beat Curry and the Warriors… but just barely, Curry was that good. Our man Brett Pollakoff broke the game down in more detail.

Suns 105, Spurs 101 (OT): In order for a team with the third-worst record in the West to beat the team with the best record in the league on the road, some strange things need to happen. They all did, at least enough for the Suns to pull out an overtime win in San Antonio by taking advantage of an off night from the Spurs.

Jermaine O’Neal outplayed Tim Duncan, scoring 22 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking a couple of shots in just 27 minutes of action. The Suns actually had six more offensive rebounds than the Spurs, resulting in a surprising 10-point advantage in the category of second chance points. As a team, the Spurs didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and Manu Ginobili was the worst of the bunch, going 2-8 from the field overall, which included 2-6 three-point shooting to go along with making only four of six free throw attempts.

One of those misses was extremely costly, as it left the door open for the Suns with just a few seconds remaining. Trailing by three, O’Neal threw the ball nearly the length of the court to Wesley Johnson, who immediately pulled up for a three as time expired that went down, forcing the overtime session.

Once there, the Suns shot just 2-9 from the field in the period, but the Spurs went 0-10, and this game came to its merciful conclusion with the Suns in the victory column for the second straight night.
—Brett Pollakoff

Nuggets 111, Trail Blazers 109: This was maybe the most intense game on a night of seemingly nothing but intense games. While Denver threatened to pull away in the second quarter most of the game was close. Denver scored seemingly at will, getting into the paint (72 points) with little resistance in transition or the half court. Denver’s big guns were making plays — Ty Lawson had 30 pints and Andre Iguodala added 29.

But Damian Lillard seemed to match Lawson play for play, on his way to 26 points. Behind his play and a number of threes (10-of-25 for Portland) it was a two-point Denver lead late after Wesley Mathews knocked down a three. A few plays later LaMarcus Aldridge tied the game 106-106 with 33 seconds left (Portland is one of the few teams in the league that runs its late-game possessions through its big man). An Andre Miller layup (terrible Portland defense) and some Lawson free throws made it a four point game with 13 seconds left. But Lillard hit a three and after Miller hit only one of two free throws on the intentional foul Portland was down two with one last shot.

Portland got the ball to Aldridge in the post again — 10 feet out and single covered by Wilson Chandler, who can’t handle him. Aldridge has a very good spin and slight fade away from the left block that is one of his best shots — but this time it rimmed out and Denver escaped with the win.

Grizzlies 90, Mavericks 84: By only looking at the final score, you might assume this game was actually a close and competitive contest. It wasn’t.

After Dallas ran out to a first-half lead of as many as 25 points, Memphis locked down defensively after halftime, holding the Mavericks to just five third-quarter points while going on a 34-4 run from 5:25 left in the first half to under four minutes remaining in the third.

The game never got out of hand in the Grizzlies’ favor, but it was clear Dallas had lost whatever it had early in this one and had no chance of regaining that magic. That’s eight straight wins for Memphis now, though it’s worth noting that most of those have come against non-playoff teams.
—Brett Pollakoff

Thunder 119, Hornets 74: This was hard to watch, mainly because you felt bad for the poor Hornets. They didn’t have any real hope without Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon on the floor, but if they did, Russell Westbrook obliterated it right away. Westbrook rattled off 18 points in the first quarter, and Kevin Durant recorded a triple-double in just 27 minutes of play. This was nothing more than a sparring session for the Thunder, and they looked plenty impressive in all aspects of this 45-point drubbing of the hapless Hornets.
—D.J. Foster

Bucks 110, Rockets 107: This didn’t look interesting early, the Rockets led by as many as 17 in the first half. That started to change as the Bucks got some better transition defense and Mike Dunleavy started knocking down his looks (11 first half points, he finished with 16). By halftime the game was tied and it was close the entire second half. Part of the reason the Rockets could not pull away was the 19 turnovers. But they got a good game from James Harden (25 points) and Omer Asik (16 points and 22 rebounds). For the Bucks Ersan Ilyasova had 20 points and 10 rebounds

Then Monta Ellis got a prayer answered. The play started with Ellis missing a jumper then Larry Sanders missing a tip-in, but it was the hustling Ellis who came out of all that with he offensive rebound. He threw the ball to Brandon Jennings, who tried to create off the dribble but got nowhere and had to pass to Ellis, who knocked down the last second prayer to win.

Hawks 102, Jazz 91: In the battle of which Al is better, Horford bested Jefferson and thus, the Hawks came away with the win.

Horford had a monster game and finished with 34 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocked shots. Jefferson wasn’t bad at all for the Jazz, finishing with 26 and 11 himself.

Josh Smith played one of his better all-around games, and found his shots mostly within the flow of the offense. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Atlanta got solid play from its guards as well, as Jeff Teague continued to play above-average basketball for his squad.

The Hawks were able to get out in transition often in this one, which helped build their early lead which reached as many as 20. Atlanta outscored Utah 20-7 in fast break points.
—Brett Pollakoff

Pistons 96, Wizards 95: Detroit came roaring back, outscoring Washington 31-13 in the fourth quarter to get the win. The fourth quarter for Washington was typified by their final shot, when Trevor Ariza got a pretty clean look at a corner three for the win and airballed it. But let’s not blame Ariza — Washington was down 96-87 with just over a minute to go and he scored eight straight points — two three-pointers and two free throws — to give Washington even a shot at the win.

Brandon Knight put in a career-best 32 points, Greg Monroe had 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Jose Calderon added 18 assists for the Pistons.

Cavaliers 103, Raptors 92: Cleveland opened the game shooting 1-for-15, they looked lost without Kyrie Irving out and were quickly down 21-7. Which frankly was a lot closer than it should have been, the Raptors didn’t own that first quarter like they needed to and it came back to bite them. In the second quarter the Cavaliers started scoring at will, went on a 20-7 run at one point, took the lead back and never trailed again. Dion Waiters eventually found his groove and had 25 points. Shaun Livingston, forced to start with Kyrie Irving out, had a solid 15 points and six assists.

DeMar DeRozan had 34 points for the Raptors, Rudy Gay added 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.

Kings 125, Magic 101: Sacramento carried some momentum over from their double-overtime loss to the Heat the night before and the team that had the worst road record in the NBA rolled the Magic. This was over early, with the Kings leading 60-37 in the second quarter. John Salmons had 21 points but it was the 64 points from the Sacramento Bench that was key.

There was one bright spot for Magic fans, recently acquired Tobias Harris had 23 points. He has scored in double figures off the bench in every game since joining Orlando. So there’s that.

Reports: Phil Jackson attending Shaq statue ceremony, Magic Johnson missing it to scout UCLA-Kentucky

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The Lakers are formally unveiling Shaquille O’Neal’s statue outside their arena tonight. Also tonight: UCLA-Kentucky in the Sweet 16, which features NBA prospects Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, T.J. Leaf, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.

That makes an interesting choice for the NBA’s two highest-profile team presidents – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Knicks’ Phil Jackson (who coached Shaq in Los Angeles), both of whose teams are headed toward a high picks in the upcoming draft.

And the front-office heads are going different directions.

Arash Markazi of ESPN:

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Watching a single game in person is unlikely to swing anything. Both Johnson and Jackson could send scouts to watch UCLA-Kentucky live and then the presidents could watch video later.

But attending in person is ideal, and there are already questions about Jackson’s work ethic. This will only fuel them.

If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Johnson, new on the job, to establish an image. He can clearly juxtapose himself with the failing Jackson and establish himself as a diligent alternative. The Lakers hired Johnson at least in part due to his high profile, but that needn’t stop him from grinding now that he has the position. Anyone doubting him would respect that.

Tyreke Evans: Giannis Antetokounmpo is like a taller me

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Giannis Antetokounmpo torched the Kings for 32 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Bucks’ 18-point win Wednesday.

Afterward, Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans paid the Greek Freak the ultimate compliment.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Do you see many players like Antetokounmpo? Evans:

Nah. He like me, but 6-7 – I mean like almost 6-8, 6-7, whatever height he is. He just long, athletic. He get to where he want to go. He got good handle for his size, and he athletic. Once he get around the rim, he can finish.

If only you were an inch taller? Evans:

That’d be a problem. I mean, it’s still a problem, I think, for me to get where I want. But just the athleticism he have and the way he get up off the ground – he got quick bounce. He pretty good at it.

Antetokounmpo is listed at 6-foot-11, Evans 6-foot-6.

This isn’t totally unreasonable. Make Evans five inches taller and add none of the dexterity awkwardness that tends to accompany growth, and he might look a lot like Antetokounmpo. Both are usually slotted at forward while possessing point-guard skills.

But Evans isn’t 6-foot-11, and most 6-foot-11 players can’t move like Antetokounmpo. That fluidity for his size is a big part of what makes Antetokounmpo special. If Evans grew up to be 6-foot-11, he likely would have developed a different skill set than he has now.

Antetokounmpo is the rare player with both the height of a big man and skills of a guard. Evans didn’t miss out on that just because his genes kept him from growing another five inches.

This discussion is also silly for another reason. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s 6-foot-1 and certain he’d be as good as Evans if only he were five inches taller.

Rumor: Blake Griffin increasingly believed to be open to leaving Clippers in free agency

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The Clippers were rumored to have already verbally agreed to terms with pending unrestricted free agents Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

But with formal contract extensions unviable, L.A. was always going to have to play out the season and hope those players remained committed into July.

There might be a hitch in that plan.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

That Griffin would also stay and reap the biggest payday he can seems likely, too—in theory. But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start—perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win.

Does Ding have credible information to suggest Griffin could join the Lakers or Celtics, or is that just speculation on the writer’s part about potential fits? It’s unclear. This is already fairly loosely sourced.

But we should gather more information quickly once free agency begins. Griffin reportedly planned to re-sign quickly. If he shows the faintest hint of exploring the market, that could open the floodgates.

Griffin had been frequently linked to his home-state Thunder, but Oklahoma City would interfere with his burgeoning Hollywood connections.* The same issue would exist with Boston, though obviously not the Lakers. That said, the Celtics are WAY better than the Lakers – and maybe soon the Clippers and Thunder, considering those Nets picks headed to Boston.

*Oklahoma City also since nuked its cap space with contract extensions for Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, though trades could always clear room if Griffin wants to come home.

The Clippers are in a bad place right now. One one hand, that forebodes another disappointing end to the season. On the other hand, there’s still time to overcome and send Griffin into free agency on a more positive note.

These are dangerous times for the Clippers, who wouldn’t have cap space to adequately replace Griffin, Paul or Redick if one leaves. So, if one bolts, the others seems more likely to follow. Interpersonal relationships matter, but the Clippers’ primary selling points were always going to be money and winning (with Hollywood proximity a bonus). Winning gets harder if talent walks.

They can still offer the most money, and they’re not leaving L.A. But the Clippers better win more to help avoid what could be a tenser-than-expected summer.

Suns use youngest starting lineup in NBA history

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The Suns have shut down their veterans or been shut down by their veterans with two goals in mind – developing young talent and tanking.

Incidentally, Phoenix also made history.

Against the Nets last night, the Suns started:

ESPN:

Elias on ESPN:

The previous youngest was the Clippers’ starting five consisting of guards Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon, forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Blake Griffin, and center DeAndre Jordan, who averaged 21 years and 143 days old in a matchup with the Nets on November 15, 2010.

The young Suns gained quality experience – and helped their team to an important loss, 126-98 to Brooklyn.

Phoenix is still 1.5 games “behind” the Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the lottery, but the Suns are within striking distance in case the Lakers screw up and win too much down the stretch.