Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Refs make Nuggets/Bulls ending interesting

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while wishing you were as well traveled as this dog

Heat 105, Celtics 103: This felt like a playoff game — it was chippy, emotional and the crowd was into it. Jeff Green took over for the Celtics with 43 points, giving the team the kind of boost it needed without Kevin Garnett in the lineup. But in the end, the Heat had LeBron James. We broke it all down in some detail. Plus, if you want to see LeBron’s entrant in the “Dunk of the Year” contest we got that, too.

Suns 99, Lakers 76: The Lakers looked like an old team on the second night of a back-to-back playing without their biggest star. The Suns played with some fight and this wasn’t even that close. Our man Brett Pollakoff was in the building and broke it all down.

Nuggets 119, Bulls 118 (OT): The Nuggets have won a dozen in a row, but all anybody is talking about is the controversial ending — and the referees only got it half right in my mind. Tom Thibodeau has a right to be pissed off. Sure, there were 52 minutes of other basketball where Wilson Chandler scored 35 and Nate Robinson scored 34 including a three to send it to overtime. There was a lot of other basketball where the Bulls played with basically a six-man rotation and fought hard. But you don’t want to talk about that, do you? Let’s get to the tip ins that decided the game.

Denver was down one (115-114) with 50 seconds left when Ty Lawson drives the lane and misses the layup, but Kosta Koufos is on the spot to tip it in — except replays clearly showed the ball was sitting on the rim and over the cylinder when it was tipped. I say that should have been offensive goaltending, others say if it is falling off the rim it can be tipped. Bottom line is no call, no review, play went on and the Nuggets got the points. After a Joakim Noah tip in (that was clearly legit) and a Noah block of Chandler, followed by an Andre Iguodala three you had the final score you see above, but the Bulls had one last shot.

Marco Belinelli brought it up the left wing and took a rushed jumper that was short, but Joakim Noah was flying in, tipped the ball in and the United Center went crazy. No call, but Denver did call a timeout, and during that break the officials reviewed the play and called Noah for offensive basket interference, tipping in a ball that was over the cylinder. It was the correct call, it was an illegal tip.

These were both illegal tip ins to my eye, both were over the cylinder. The question is, why was only one reviewed? The refs can’t say they didn’t review Koufos’ because there was not call, because there was no call on Noah’s either. There was just time. It will be interesting to see what the league office says about all this.

Knicks 90, Jazz 83: The Lakers losing in Phoenix didn’t affect their playoff chances at all, thanks to the Jazz continuing to be in a complete free-fall as the season enters its final month. With the Knicks missing Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, and trotting out a starting lineup featuring Kenyon Martin, Chris Copeland, and Pablo Prigioni, they were still able to win in Utah thanks to the Jazz shooting just 28.9 percent from the field over the final two periods.

Utah typically does significant damage in the paint, but scored a season-low 22 points there in this one. J.R. Smith led all scorers with a game-high 20 points, which lets you know just how much of an offensive exhibition this one was.
—Brett Pollakoff

Grizzlies 92, Timberwolves 77: It’s not very often a team improves dramatically after a big mid-season trade, but with each and every game that goes by, the Grizzlies seem to make more and more sense. Even when it’s a little something — like Tayshaun Prince bringing up the ball and being able to feed the high post easier because of his height — it feels like a revelation for an offense that was so starved for space, especially when they force-fed Rudy Gay in the past.

This was a game where the Grizzlies just sharpened the knives a little bit, essentially. As per usual, Marc Gasol did everything, including a sick no-look alley-oop pass to Tony Allen for a jam. How many 7-footers influence the game the way Gasol does on both ends? Zero. Zilch. Nada. Gasol was excellent with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks.

The Wolves were down 23 points in the third quarter, which is bad obviously, but if you’ve followed the Wolves this year, you knew it could get worse. Ricky Rubio left the game with an apparent groin injury, sapping the Wolves of any shred of visual appeal for the rest of the game. Minnesota finished the game shooting 33 percent as a team, but somehow, it felt worse.
—D.J. Foster

76ers 101, Trail Blazers 100: LaMarcus Aldridge had an All-Star night — 32 points and 14 rebounds — but he had a turnaround jumper he can knock down to win the game at the end and he missed it. That’s a tough loss for Portland but a quality win for the Sixers, who are refusing to completely roll over down the stretch. Jrue Holiday had 27 points, Thaddeus Young ptched in 19 and Spencer Hawes had 18 points and 13 rebounds. It’s still a team game folks — there were six Sixers in double figures, just two Trail Blazers (Aldridge and Damian Lillard with 27).

Mavericks 127, Hawks 113: The Hawks have their issues; that much has been documented. But the Mavericks, now that they have a healthy Dirk Nowitzki and are beginning to build some confidence behind playing with some consistent lineups, have been putting together wins and are within reach of a long-shot entry into the postseason.

Dallas scored its season high in points, and was led in scoring by Darren Collison off the bench who finished with 24 points on 10-14 shooting. The Hawks failed to defend all night long, as the Mavs finished the game shooting 57.3 percent from the field, including almost 60 percent (13-22) from three-point distance.

The Mavericks are very quietly just three games behind the Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 15 games left to play.
—Brett Pollakoff

Pacers 111, Cavaliers 90: Indiana took control of this game with an 11-0 run in the second quarter (the quarter where Gerald Green put up 13), pulled away in the second half and cruised to an easy win. Green finished with 20 points and Tyler Hansbrough added 18 points and 11 rebounds. The highlight you are going to see out of this game — and the suspension coming down — will be for Marreese Speights, who grabbed Paul George around the neck and threw him to the floor. He got a flagrant 2 and was ejected for it. As he should have been.

Nets 119, Pistons 82: Deron Williams had 14 of his 31 points in the first quarter, sparked a 10-0 Nets run and they never looked back from there. Brook Lopez had 18 points and Andray Blatche chipped in 15. The Nets looked pretty good mostly the Pistons continue to look terrible, particularly on defense.

Warriors 93, Hornets 72: After beating the Rockets in Houston the night before, there was no way the Warriors were going to kill that momentum by stubbing their toe against the Hornets. Stephen Curry scored 30 points on 10-19 shooting, but more importantly for the long-term prospects of this team is the fact that Andrew Bogut turned in a stellar defensive effort inside for the second straight night.

Golden State shot 50 percent from the field for the game, including 52.6 percent from three-point distance. That, along with holding the Hornets to just 11 fourth quarter points was more than enough to pull away for the victory.
—Brett Pollakoff

Bobcats 119, Wizards 114: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. Not a lot of it to be found in this game. Charlotte was down five inside three minutes to play but went on a 12-0 run to secure the win. Gerald Henderson had 27 to lead the Bobcats, John Wall had 25 for Washington. If the Wizards want to point the finger at something, how about the 14 free throws they gave the Bobcats in the fourth and 33 for the game. Can’t do that and win against a teams that knock the freebies down.

It’s official: Phil Jackson out as president of the New York Knicks

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The build up was slow. It began simmering when the feud with Carmelo Anthony became public, as talk of a trade and then a buyout started to come to become louder and louder. It picked up steam when the triangle offense was being forced on players and a coaching staff that didn’t like or fit it. Things really got hot when Kristaps Porzingis skipped his exit meeting last April, and rather than try to smooth things over and find a solution it became about sending a message and threating to trade the team’s best player and the face of the franchise.

Wednesday everything boiled over — Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks have parted ways, the sides announced.

“After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction,” Knicks owner James Dolan said in a released statement. “Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.”

“The New York Knicks will always hold a special place in my heart,” Jackson said. “This team and this town launched my NBA career. I will forever be indebted to them. I am grateful to Mr. Dolan for giving me the opportunity to return here. I had hoped, of course, to bring another NBA championship to the Garden. As someone who treasures winning, I am deeply disappointed that we weren’t able to do that. New York fans deserve nothing less.”

All this just three days before free agency opens.

Current Knicks GM and trusted Dolan confidant Steve Mills will run basketball operations for now. Former Raptors executive Tim Leiweke will work with Mills and with Dolan to find a new head of the Knicks’ front office.

Dolan reportedly wants to hire Toronto’s Masai Ujiri, one of the most respected team presidents in the league — and the guy who fleeced the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade from Denver and the Andrea Bargnani trade with Toronto. However, Ujiri signed a contract extension — with a raise and a title bump — a year ago, the Raptors have no obligation to let him out of that deal. If he does leave, it will cost the Knicks plenty.

Other viable options, such as just-released by the Cavaliers David Griffin, are available. What the Knicks need to do is hire someone with experience.

Despite the public issues with Anthony and Porzingis, plus the insistence on running the triangle, Phil Jackson did some good with the Knicks. He drafted Porzingis, as well as Willy Hernangomez and the recent Frank Ntilikina (we will see how he pans out). He also stopped the Knicks ridiculous of trading away their first-round picks, the Knicks have theirs going forward (he did move some second rounders). Whoever replaces Jackson will have a foundation to work with that was not there when Jackson arrived.

However, Jackson’s unquestioned knowledge of the game — he does have 11 championship rings as a player and a coach for a reason — did not translate well into the front office. The mind-games Jackson liked to play, such as calling out a player in the media, work when as a coach and you see the players every day, if they have a problem they can come talk to you. It comes off very differently from the ivory tower of the front office. Jackson kept changing his team vision and plans, brought in expensive older players such as Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, and continued feuding with the team’s stars.

Now the Knicks are starting over. A good thing, but the timing of the move just days before the start of free agency was very Knicks.

What’s next for Knicks? Owner reportedly targeting Raptors’ Masai Ujiri, but it’s longshot

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Phil Jackson is out as the Knicks head of basketball operations. The Knicks just made it official.

That’s a good thing for the future of the franchise and has New York fans celebrating, but making this move just four days before the start of free agency is the most Knicks of timing. While other teams are laying back-channel groundwork for the July 1 free agency onslaught, the Knicks will be trying to figure out who is in charge (likely trusted GM Steve Mills for a while).

Who is next in line to lead the Knicks? Before you say “anyone is better” think back over owner James Dolan’s hires. The worst of the lot was Isiah Thomas, and he and Dolan are still friends. Plus there are the times Dolan himself was involved in the basketball decision making.

There are a lot of potential quality candidates available, but Dolan appears to be going with the “if you can’t beat them, join them” idea of chasing Raptors president Masai Ujiri, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Marc Stein of ESPN adds:

Leiweke hired Ujiri in Toronto.

It’s been known for more than a year that if/when Jackson was pushed out, Ujiri would be the Knicks target. Dolan wants to hire the guy that keeps beating him. Ujiri was the GM in Denver when the Knicks traded far too many young assets for Carmelo Anthony, stripping the team of any chance to win by gutting it to get a star. Then when he was in Toronto, Ujiri orchestrated the trade that sent Andrea Bargnani and his massive contract from the Raptors to the Knicks. Dolan reportedly was so worried about being fleeced by Ujiri again he blocked a trade for Kyle Lowry out of fear of being burned (of course, the Lowry trade would’ve been a good one for the Knicks).

However, this is a longshot. Last year, Toronto gave Ujiri and extension and the title of President of Basketball Operations. The Raptors can simply refuse to let him talk to the Knicks, and even if Ujiri wanted the job (which is not clear) then it will be very expensive to buy him out.

If not Ujiri, then the Knicks could and should consider just released David Griffin, who was able to help turn the Cavaliers into a contender when LeBron James decided to return home. Griffin did an impressive job, came up with creating ways to get more talent on a capped-out roster, all while working for a notoriously difficult owner. That seems like the right resume for New York.

There are a number of other qualified candidates available, or the Knicks could hire a smart up-and-comer ready to make the leap such as Mike Zarren out of Boston, or a host of others in that spot.

What would be a mistake is to chase big name who has no front office experience. Or one with a questionable history as GM. Which is to say, don’t make the Phil Jackson mistake all over again. The Knicks need quality front office experience, someone who has proven they can do the job well. With Kristaps Porzingis on the roster, the Knicks have what can be the cornerstone piece of a championship roster in place — drafting him was Jackson’s one shining moment in the job. Building a team around him needs to be the priority (not getting in stupid squabbles with the star and threatening to trade him).

Knicks fans are right to celebrate Jackson being gone, but until the next shoe drops they shouldn’t completely relax.

Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns ticked he didn’t make All-NBA team

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Players in their first few years in the NBA almost never make an All-NBA team. There are exceptions — Larry Bird was First Team All-NBA as a rookie, for example — but it usually takes time and development before a player can crack the top 15 in the league.

Karl-Anthony Towns is frustrated he didn’t make All-NBA in his second year, he felt snubbed. He was the person with the most points/votes of anyone not to make the team, but the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan had one more first team vote (three to two) and ended up just four points ahead of Towns. Here’s what KAT told Sean Deveney of The Sporting News about that.

Karl-Anthony Towns averaged 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in just his second season, but still was snubbed from the All-NBA team, beaten out by a mere four points by DeAndre Jordan.  And now it can be told: It bothered him — a little.

“You know what, it did a little bit, it did a little damage to me,” Towns told Sporting News. “But that’s all right, because it is all about team success. You’ve got to win. You’ve got to win to be respected in this league. You have to do little things, there are things we can do as a team. We have to come back as a stronger team and win in the playoffs, because the playoffs are the most important thing.”

For the record, I was one of those official voters who had Jordan in front of Towns (Jordan was my third team All-NBA center). It was close and something I debated (and watched film on, and talked to people around the league about), but for me the deciding factor was not winning, it was defensive impact.

Towns is improving fast on both ends, and the Timberwolves should win more with the addition of Jimmy Butler next season. Having Butler and Andrew Wiggins on the wings should help the Timberwolves defense that held the team back last season. Minnesota is poised to make the leap into the playoffs (although it will not be easy, with the Nuggets and Pelicans both improving the final few slots in the West could be tough to get).

Towns is going to end up with a ridiculous amount of All-NBA honors before his career is done. However, the best players use anything as motivational fuel, and if this is what fires Towns up, then go for it. We’re all expecting big things from him next season.

Suns’ Dudley has surgery on left toe ligament and bone

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PHOENIX (AP) Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley has undergone a left toe ligament and bone procedure.

The Suns issued a statement on Tuesday saying Dudley had surgery last Friday and is expected to return to full basketball activities in 3-4 months.

The 31-year-old averaged 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 64 games with Phoenix last season. Dudley is in his sixth season and second stint with the Suns. He has two years and nearly $20 million left on his contract.

Dudley has career averages of 8.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 10 NBA seasons.