Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Three playoff teams get wins

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while stopping a crime using coffee

Thunder 122, Lakers 105: The Lakers show some fight. Kobe Bryant had 30, Steve Nash had 20 and this was a five point game with six minutes to go. But the Thunder have another gear, the Lakers scored one point the rest of the way, Russell Westbrook poured in 37 on the night, and OKC got a comfortable win. Our man Brett Pollakoff broke it all down.

Celtics 109, 76ers 101: Avery Bradley — he’s not just for defense anymore.

Bradley had 22 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) to lead a Celtics offense was once again clicking and moving the ball. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett each scored 18. But that was not the real key to the game — the Sixers led much of the first quarter because the usually stout Celtics defense let Jrue Holiday and his Philly teammates got to the rim seemingly at will. Boston played like they could win this by just showing up.

But Boston went to stretches of playing zone as the game wore on and with that the 76ers inability to sustain offense returned — they messed seven shots in a row early in the second quarter. By the middle of the second quarter the Celtics were up seven and while that lead fluctuated Boston was still up seven at the half.

The Sixers never lead the rest of the way but also wouldn’t go away and closed the third quarter on an 8-0 run to make it a five point game after three. Boston answered with a 9-0 run to open the fourth and that was your ballgame. Holiday had 18 points and 10 assists, but also another five turnover game for the Sixers.

Nuggets 120, Kings 113: It was a close game until Denver opened the second half on an 11-2 run and that was pretty much when you could leave the arena if you wanted beat the traffic. Ty Lawson had half of his 24 points in the third and the Nuggets as a team put up 36 in the quarter. Kenneth Faried was huge in the paint for Denver with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Meanwhile the Kings’ key big man DeMarcus Cousins had one of those nights, opening the game 0-for-8 shooting and not scoring until the third quarter.

Rumor: Paul George told former Pacers teammates he wanted to join the Lakers

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Paul George to the Lakers is a capital-T thing.

George is from Southern California, and he keeps indicating his dissatisfaction with the Pacers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even Lakers president Magic Johnson is talking about George.

Where do rumors like this originate?

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.

Did George say he dreamed of playing for the Lakers growing up? Did he say it’d be cool to join his boyhood favorite team if the situation presented itself? Or did he say he wanted to get the heck out of Indiana to join the Lakers as soon as possible?

There are so many ways his comments to teammates could get misconstrued as they get passed down in the game of telephone.

But the Lakers threat – to whatever degree it’s real – looms, and it’ll impact how the Pacers handle their offseason.

Jazz call deactivating Jeff Withey, who was accused of domestic violence, ‘strategic basketball-related decision’

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Jazz Center Jeff Withey was accused of domestic violence in a police report filed by his ex-fiancée.

Withey played a small role in Utah’s first two playoff games, but once the accusation over an alleged 2016 incident became public, he hasn’t seen the court. Withey received a DNP-CD in Game 3 against the Clippers, and the Jazz deactivated the center for Game 4 last night.

Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News:

The team called it a “strategic basketball-related decision.”

Withey was always going to see a reduced role with Rudy Gobert returning from injury.

Though Gobert didn’t play in Game 3, the Jazz had two injured players – Gobert and Alec Burks on the inactive list – so Withey was active but never played. But Withey was active for Game 1, which Gobert started healthy before injuring his knee 11 seconds in.

Therefore, deactivating Withey in Game 4 for Joel Bolomboy, a little-used second-round rookie who has yet to play in the postseason, is a curious choice for basketball reasons. It’s almost as if that wasn’t the reason.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.