Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Clippers dust off what’s left of the Knicks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while making the case for the 68th team, the one left out of the NCAA Tournament, because they really had a shot to win it all….

Heat 108, Raptors 91: The Heat tied the second longest winning streak in NBA history with this win over Toronto. (Interesting test against Boston on the second night of a back-to-back Monday.) LeBron James (22 points) and Dwyane Wade (24 points) led a business-like win for Miami. Rudy Gay stepped up his game with 27, but it was never really in doubt. Brett Pollakoff broke the game down in more detail.

Clippers 93, Knicks 80: No Carmelo Anthony (knee). No Tyson Chandler (knee). No Amare Stoudemire (knee). No real chance for the Knicks to score enough to keep up with the Clippers on Sunday so long as Chris Paul was focused and aggressive. Which really didn’t happen until the third quarter when the Clippers went on a 16-3 run to pull away. J.R. Smith tried to create some magic for the Knicks but shot 4-of-20 on the night.

It was a win the Clippers needed to keep pace with Memphis and Denver, and they got it, but it wasn’t really dominating or impressive.

Lakers 113, Kings 102: Since Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles in 2008, the Lakers had yet to win a game where both he and Kobe Bryant sat out. That changed Sunday. In part because Steve Nash had 19 points (on 12 shots) plus 12 assists. And it was in part because Dwight Howard had 12 points (on six shots) and 17 rebounds. But for once the Lakers got balance. They got 27 points out of Antawn Jamison off the bench. They got 16 points from Steve Blake including a key play down the stretch when the Kings made a run and made it a two-point game. It was a good team win for the Lakers. Who need wins as they try to hold on to a playoff spot in the West. Isaiah Thomas had 26 for the Kings and Patrick Patterson had 22 on 12 shots.

Warriors 108, Rockets 78: The Rockets had a chance to move into the six seed in the West — you’d like to avoid the Thunder or Spurs in the first round — but their offense took a night off. The Rockets fell behind when they missed 12 consecutive shots in the first quarter (they shot 3-for-23 in the first 12 minutes) and that was pretty much it. Give the Warriors some credit — they played some better defense with Andrew Bogut blocking three shots and grabbing 12 boards. But the Rockets just had one of those nights. Stephen Curry had 29 points and 11 assists; Klay Thompson added 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting. James Harden put up a good line with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Thunder 107, Mavericks 101: Kevin Durant had 19 points in the fourth quarter, while Dirk Nowitzki didn’t have a shot attempt in the fourth. In a back-and-forth final stanza that was enough, the Thunder got big games from their stars For three quarters it was really Russell Westbrook (35 points) and Dirk Nowitzki (23 points) leading their teams. But in the fourth Nowitzki got just four free throws while Durant took charge (although Westbrook had a key late bucket, a pull up jumper with the game tied 101-101; then later Thabo Sefolosha hit a bit shot). Bottom line is teams can take Nowitzki out of the Mavs game plan and Dallas doesn’t have anyone who can step up now.

Hawks 105, Nets 93: In what could be a first round preview, the Nets were close for three quarters, but in the fourth the Hawks shot 14-for-18 as a team and pulled away for the victory. The win puts the Hawks one game back of the Nets for the four seed (but 2.5 games separate the 3 and 7 seeds in the East, we could see a lot of shifting late. The Nets had no answer for the Hawks versatile front line — Al Horford had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Josh Smith had 21 points (eight in the fourth quarter), plus seven rebounds and five assists.

Bucks 115, Magic 109: The Bucks trailed in this one by a dozen with just over six minutes left in the game, but Monta Ellis was on fire with 25 fourth-quarter points and he got the Bucks the win. He was 5-of-5 from three in the quarter. But let’s throw a little credit to Brandon Jennings, who had eight of his 14 assists in the fourth quarter. It was a good comeback win for the Bucks, but the fact they needed one against the Magic speaks to the larger issue.

Timberwolves 97, Hornets 95: Minnesota got Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko back from injury on Sunday and it helped a lot in the final minutes of a close game — Pekovic had a key offensive rebound and knocked down a couple free throws while Kirilenko blocked Eric Gordon’s shot to win it for Minnesota. Derrick Williams had 28 to lead Minny. Greivis Vasquez led the Hornets with 25 points, but when you need 25 shots to get there it’s not a good night.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.

PBT Podcast: Future of Isaiah Thomas, Ricky Rubio, also award talk with Dan Feldman

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We asked for your questions on Twitter and Facebook, and you gave myself and Dan Feldman got some fascinating discussion points:

If the Celtics land a top two pick, what does that mean for the future of Isaiah Thomas in Boston?

Is Ricky Rubio‘s run of strong play mean he remains the point guard of the future in Minnesota?

How good is Devin Booker?

We discuss all of that plus the NBA end of season awards that we are still looking at and trying to make up our minds about.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.