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: Dwyane Wade “leaning heavily” toward joining Cavaliers

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This race may have been decided before it ever started.

While Miami has the draw of home, and Paul George and Russell Westbrook have come hard at him, it seems Dwyane Wade always knew where he wanted to be after Chicago — reunited with LeBron James. Just now in Cleveland. From Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Dwyane Wade is leaning heavily toward the Cavaliers as his new team once he clears waivers and may have already decided on a reunion with LeBron James, league sources with knowledge of Wade’s thinking told cleveland.com…

Wade has given no indication publicly what he will do, and at least three teams — the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and his old team the Miami Heat — are interested in him. His agent is taking calls from those teams and others, and Wade told the Associated Press he would do his due diligence as well.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN confirmed this.

This is not a shock.

What does Wade want in a destination? A chance to make another run at a ring, minutes, and a comfort level with the organization. Cleveland provides all of those, plus easy access to the Gravy Fries at Greenhouse Tavern (which may not be on Wade’s in-season approved list by his nutritionist).

Even without Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are and should be the favorite to come out of the East, then take their swings at the Warriors (or whoever comes out of the West, I feel obligated to write just to be nice to the folks in Houston and Oklahoma City). The Cavaliers are smack in the middle of the NBA’s second tier. Wade averaged an efficient 18.3 points per game for the Bulls last season, and he can for stretches still dial-up his vintage self and dominate games.

Wade would probably start at the two over J.R. Smith, and even if he came off the bench he could get just about all the minutes his aging knees will handle. That said, I’m not sure the Cavs can play Wade and Derrick Rose together, particularly during the playoffs, due to spacing and defensive issues. And obviously, with his good friend LeBron there, Wade has comfort with the organization (just don’t expect him to sign more than a one-year deal).

This was always the most likely outcome, Wade and LeBron together again for one more run.

John Wall urges Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers to defend Kaepernick

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When Donald Trump ranted last Friday night to slam the NFL, then turn around Saturday morning and revoke his invitation to the Warriors to visit the White House — in a classic “you’re not breaking up with me, I’m breaking up with you” move — the biggest names in the NBA responded. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Adam Silver, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Bill Russell, Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, and many others responded to stand behind the Warriors and behind NFL protestors and Colin Kaepernick.

John Wall said at media day he thinks the NFL’s biggest stars need to go after Trump as well, specifically calling out Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers in an interview on CSN MidAtlantic (seen above).

“Most of our franchise guys or big-time players in the league are African-Americans. You have Chris Paul, you have Dwyane Wade, you have Carmelo Anthony, you have LeBron James that went and talked at the ESPYs….

“So you have guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers — love those guys, very talented. Until those guys come out and speak, I don’t think the NFL is going to make any adjustments. Remember when we were dealing with our stuff, with [former Clippers owner] Donald Sterling and all that type of things, it was like, ‘Well if LeBron and those guys don’t come out, if Kobe don’t come out and say nothing, it’s never going to be a stand taken.’ When those guys came out and started talking, what happened? He’s fired. The stand stood. Until those guys in the NFL come up and stand up for Kaepernick and for those guys … until they do that, I don’t think anything’s going to change.”

I’m not sure Donald Sterling was the best analogy because the league was more than happy to push him out the door once the window opened, he had been an embarrassment for a long time. The players’ words helped, but they were one part of a much larger push.

But his point is valid. NFL owners — including the ones who backed and donated to Trump during the election — called him out, and rightfully so. What kind of person comes out in favor of concussions and against player safety and long-term health? But where are the voices of the two biggest names at the most prominent position in the NFL?

Three questions the Boston Celtics must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season:
53-29, lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

I know what you did last summer: Sent Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons, a move they could potentially regret after dealing Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. The Celtics also signed big time free agent Gordon Hayward away from the Utah Jazz. Finally, Boston took Jayson Tatum in the 2017 NBA Draft.

THREE QUESTIONS THE CELTICS MUST ANSWER:

1) Can Irving lead without diminishing the role of other starters? I think it’s a complete misnomer to think that Irving is solely a one-on-one, isolation type player. However, fans do like to get in a very black-and-white mode when analyzing players, and bias can show strongly here.

Irving has said that he wants to be more of a team player when it comes to the Celtics, which is good news for Brad Stevens and company. Irving is an excellent offensive player, and his talents should not be wasted, but there is some concern that he might dominate too much of the ball and won’t give a guy like Hayward and enough room to operate. That might’ve worked okay last season when Thomas was the engine that made the Celtics go, but Boston arguably has a better starting five this season than last.

I think there is real issues here when it comes to fit moving forward, and it is going to center around whether Irving can play team defense and handle the leeway he will be given on offense. Remember, the other thing here that hasn’t been talked about much is the extra operating space that Irving will be granted now that he is out of LeBron James‘s shadow. It might be very tantalizing to take advantage of that situation, but for Boston’s success he will need to find a happy place in between.

2) What kind of bench depth can the young players produce? Boston didn’t want to trade Avery Bradley away, but they also didn’t want to pay him. That issue becomes doubly as important now that they used Jae Crowder, the successor that wing spot, to deal for Irving.

The Celtics are a top-heavy team this season even if they did get better. They will rely more and more on guys like Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and the rookie Tatum.

Marcus Morris will be a huge part of their rotation as will Aron Banes with Kelly Olynyk in Miami. Danny Ainge is playing the long term look here, so it won’t necessarily matter if the team isn’t on par next season to him. However, a championship style run for this season will depend on immediate production from the three young wing players.

3) Are they good enough to get past the Cavaliers this time around? This is the big question that everyone in Boston wants to answer. The Cavaliers are their longtime rivals in the Eastern Conference, and now that they have swapped roster pieces it will be more than just basketball on the floor. It will be a social curiosity.

Whether or not the Celtics will be good enough to get past LeBron James will really depend on the answers to questions one and two above. The only way that Boston can replicate their production from last season will be to jell together quickly. That means getting a real rhythm on offense between Hayward, Horford, and Irving.

It also means finding a way to play defense with Irving at the point guard position. It’s all well and good to say that both Thomas and Irving have been liabilities on defense, but now teams have game tape on what Stevens did with his squad on that end of the floor come playoff time. This team will need to stiffen and do some things to mix it up to make sure they aren’t beat by their own game film next spring.

Bill Russell takes a knee while wearing his Presidential Medal of Freedom

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When we talk of Bill Russell, it’s often the on-the-court accomplishments — an 11-time NBA champion and five-time MVP who anchored the Boston Celtics through the greatest dynasty in NBA history, one of the best defensive players ever to set foot on the court. He’s more than simply a Hall of Famer, he is one of the game’s all-time greatest players.

With that, we often overlook Russell the activist, who took part in the Civil Rights movement. A man who faced plenty of racism as a player — being jeered by white students in college while he played, not being allowed to stay in the same hotel as white players in North Carolina during an All-Star tour in 1958, and much more — he was public in his refusal to tolerate any of it. It was his efforts on that front as much as basketball that led then President Barack Obama to award Russell the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Russell tweeted out this photo of himself wearing that medal and supporting the NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

Russell is not going to be silenced. Not now, not ever. He remains a strong voice that the NBA should heed.

Following in the footsteps of Colin Kaepernick’s protests against violence and social injustice last season by taking a knee during the national anthem, more players were doing so this season. When President Donald Trump called on NFL owners to “fire” the players taking a knee during the anthem, it led to a backlash among players and a much more widespread adopting of players taking a knee this past weekend. Even backers of the president — Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, both of whom donated to Trump last election — called Trump out for his comments.

It will be interesting to see how NBA teams handle anthem protests this season. Last season teams linked arms in a show of solidarity (the NBA has a rule that players must stand during the anthem) but you can be sure the league and players union are already discussing this. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was among the multitude of voices calling out Trump for what he said, let along high-ranking union members such as Chris Paul and LeBron Jamesthe latter of whom called the president a “bum.” Those slams of the president continued on media day Monday.