Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Miami wants to know if you have any other challengers

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while wondering where you’re going to get your next lion meat burger if not Chicago….

Lakers 90, Bulls 81: The Lakers offense has been better of late and the Bulls offense continues to be unimpressive. At best. Those things combine to give the Lakers another win, one that moves them into the eighth playoff seed. Our Brett Pollakoff was there and broke it down.

Clippers 129, Pistons 97: The Clippers were looking to springboard their defense and overall game as they start to think about the playoffs. A good way to have your defense look good is to play a team that tries to make you pay for your mistakes with shots by Jason Maxiell and Jonas Jerebko. Easy win for the Clips. If you want to read more about their defense and this game, we can help you out.

Heat 105, Pacers 90: This is not a statement win for the Heat. It’s one of 18 straight statement games by the Heat to the entire league.

This game unfolded pretty much like you’d expect — the Pacers defense could keep them close for a stretch, but then they’d have an offensive lull, turn the ball over a few times and suddenly they are playing catch-up. And the Pacers are not a team that can play catch-up. Mario Chalmers led the Heat 26 points including knocking down five 3-pointers. Chris Bosh added with 24 points, Dwyane Wade chipped in 23 points and six steals. The Heat shot 56 percent for the game, showing they can score on the defense that statistically has been the best in the NBA this season.

Thunder 91, Celtics 79: Celtics fans have every right to dream of a huge playoff run, they got one last season. But this game was more like the reality of what the NBA elite look like against the Celtics. The Celtics and their defense — plus 20 points from Paul Pierce — hung close with the Thunder for three quarters.

But the Thunder cranked up the defensive pressure and opened the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run. The Celtics shot just 18.2 percent (4-for-22) for 14 points in the fourth quarter and OKC ran away. Kevin Durant had 23. The bottom line is the Thunder had another gear the Celtics did not.

Hornets 98, Trail Blazers 96: For the second time in a week the Hornets gave up a double-digit lead late, but this time the outcome was different. An and-1 lay-up and free throw by Ryan Anderson with 1.8 seconds to play (off a sweet drive and dish by Greivis Vasquez) gave the Hornets a win this time around. His shot was in answer to a Damian Lillard three with 11.2 seconds to play that put Trail Blazers on top. Lillard had eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, but Wesley Matthews was the real driving force in the Blazers comeback with 14 of his 24 in the fourth.

Anthony Davis looked good, with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Bucks 115, Kings 113: Another game, another DeMarcus Cousins ejection — he got his fourth of the season for an elbow to the head of Mike Dunleavy. Who clearly got in Cousins head. Dunleavy had 16 points and knocked down four threes, by the way. The Bucks led from the second quarter on and withstood the Kings runs, including a late 11-2 one that made it very interesting at the end. The Kings could have used Cousins, who had 24 points and 10 boards before getting tossed (and you can expect a fine).

Monta Ellis had 29 points to lead the Bucks.

Orlando 99, Sixers 91: Well, the Sixers keep looking for a new bottom to the season. This might be it. This game was tied 85-85 and the Magic just flat-out outplayed the Sixers down the stretch, knocking down threes and pulling away. Late in the game the Magic went small, playing Beno Udrih, Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo together — and each hit a key three in the fourth. The Magic shot 5-of-8 from three in the final nine minutes to pull away. The Sixers never had an answer for the small ball lineup.

Thaddeus Young did his part for the Sixers — 26 points on 13-of-17 shooting — but Nelson outplayed Jrue Holiday at the point and that was key. Nelson had 24 points and 10 dimes.

Raptors 100, Cavaliers 96: The scariest scene in this game was Kyrie Irving leaving the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury after a collision with a Raptor. The good news is X-Rays were negative but he will be re-evaluated Monday. The guy has had enough injuries this season, can’t the basketball gods lighten up on him a little?

The Raptors, without Rudy Gay (sore back) fought back from a 17-point first quarter deficit to make it a close game down the stretch. Cleveland led by a point in the final minute but Kyle Lowry scored the final four points to get Toronto the win, including a nice little turnaround jumper with 14 seconds left. Dion Waiters made it close with Irving out, scoring 13 of his 21 in the fourth.

Mavericks 100, Timberwolves 77: Dallas opened the second quarter on a 17-1 run and pulled away from there to an easy win. The Timberwolves looked tired — they played the night before in Denver and were delayed getting out of town because the plane had to be de-iced — and the Mavericks took advantage. Vince Carter had 22 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 16 points.

Paul George says he “Didn’t know I was gonna be traded”

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As I have pointed out before here on NBC Sports, I really do love watching NBA marketing unfold in front of me. Some of it — like Kobe Bryant’s weird post career legacy massaging — is downright impressive.

Other instances are not quite as sly.

Enter newest Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George and his latest sponsored Instagram post.

In a recent video posted to his page, George put up a training montage set to an Eminem song that was essentially an advertisement for the gym and trainer he had been working with over the summer. The gym’s own page also features several of these videos. So far, pretty common stuff.

That is, until you read the Instagram caption and see what George had to say about his training. Let’s see if you can spot the issue.

Screenshot via Instagram:

Of course, the issue here is that George essentially took away the leverage the Indiana Pacers would have had if his trade request hadn’t somehow been made public. Repeatedly.

George knew he was going to get traded because Indiana had no choice but to trade him. Saying otherwise is a hilarious and transparent attempt to reshape recent history.

This is perhaps my favorite result of the platitudes drilled into the heads of players by team PR guys and agent media training. That is, when you talk nonsense for so long and during each and every interview — we just dug deep, it’s a game of inches, you have to want it more — sometimes you just don’t know when to stop trying to spin the story in your direction. Especially because the mantra of media training is to be boring and try say nothing, which is hard if you have something to prove or an opinion to change.

Between this and Kevin Durant openly admitting to having a burner Twitter account (which no doubt sparked a flurry of emails and calls between agents and their clients) this is shaping up to be one of the best NBA seasons in recent memories and that’s just from a new media standpoint.

Gordon Hayward says Isaiah Thomas “ultimately helped win me over”

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Gordon Hayward is now a member of the Boston Celtics, and we are all excited to see how the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference last season checks out with a newly revamped roster.

Of course, Boston has been the subject of much media attention after signing Hayward and trading Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. I think there should be some skepticism about how quickly Boston will be able to put things together, but this is a team of former and current All-Stars so they will likely be at least a Top 4 team out East.

Meanwhile, Hayward has written a new blog post on his personal website about the summer, taking on such subjects as the move to Massachusetts, video games, and what to expect this season.

One of the more interesting things that Hayward wrote about was just how much of an influence Thomas had in his decision to come to Boston. Hayward addresses Thomas’ influence in a section dedicated to him finding out about the trade to Cleveland.

Via GordonHayward20.life:

He didn’t just help recruit me to Boston—he was a big piece of that recruitment. He had talked a lot about city and how it was different to be a Celtic. He talked about the intensity of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, playing at the Garden in the playoffs, and how much fun it was, and how much fun he had playing in Boston.

All of that ultimately helped win me over. And by the time of the trade, I had already started to build a little bit of a relationship with him.

The rest of Hayward’s post was about the subjects mentioned above, but it ended by saying that he understands the history of the organization and that he feels like he has not reached his full potential just yet.

Obviously, in signing him this season that’s exactly what the Celtics and Danny Ainge are hoping.

NBA implementing ‘Zaza Pachulia,’ ‘James Harden’ rules

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NEW YORK (AP) — NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season’s playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden‘s attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard’s in Game 1 of Golden State’s victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

“It’s 100 percent for the safety of the players,” NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. But the play got renewed attention during the playoffs because of Leonard’s injury, and also one in which Washington forward Markieff Morris landed on Al Horford‘s foot in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, knocking him out of a game the Celtics rallied to win.

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia’s foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots – often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up – officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

“We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let’s catch up to it,”‘ NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.

Report: Cavaliers signing Kendrick Perkins

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Kendrick Perkins spent fewer than four months with the Cavaliers, including the 2015 playoffs. But nearly a year later after Cleveland let Perkins walk in free agency, LeBron James was still bemoaning Perkins’ absence.

Are the Cavs righting a wrong?

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Kendrick Perkins joined the Cavaliers at LeBron James’ minicamp in Santa Barbara, Calif., and will come to training camp next week, sources told cleveland.com.

The Cavs now have 18 players with standard contracts, and 15 – the regular-season limit – have guaranteed salaries. I doubt Cleveland wants to waive the two without guaranteed salaries, Kay Felder and Edy Tavares, either.

In other words, Perkins is a longshot to stick into the regular season.

Perkins was washed up when with the Cavaliers two years ago. The 32-year-old who sat out last season hasn’t produced on the court in several years. He’s tough and well-liked in the locker room, which might give him a chance of sneaking onto the regular-season roster.

But the Cavs should focus on developing toughness and chemistry among their rotation players. Perkins is just a crutch, most likely one who’ll be yanked away by cut-down day a few weeks from now.