Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Clippers lose, fall to fourth

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while rethinking everything you knew about Star Wars….

Nuggets 114, Thunder 104: Denver won their 13th game in a row and in doing so made a statement that come the playoffs they are not to be dismissed. The Thunder went cold for the first part of the third quarter, allowing the Nuggets to take a lead, then every time they tried to make a comeback Andre Miller hit a big shot. We broke this down as our game of the night.

Kings 116, Clippers 101: Here is what this loss means for the Clippers — they are now the No. 4 seed in the West, they have fallen behind Denver by half a game and percentage points behind Memphis. Can you see the Clippers — who could not contain Marcus Thornton and Toney Douglas Tuesday — beating either of those teams in the first round of the playoffs? No, me neither. That is what the Clippers have until the end of the season to change. Chris Paul will push them, but can the other players follow him? Does Vinny Del Negro have an idea how to change this?

Let’s give the Kings their due here. Behind Thornton’s 25 points total and a strong game from DeMarcus Cousins (17 points, 11 rebounds) this was a close game entering the fourth quarter. Then in the final six minutes Toney Douglas happened, with a couple corner threes and one got-to-put-it-up-to-beat-the-shot-clock ridiculously deep dagger three. The Kings played hard and well enough to win. The Clippers simply couldn’t match them. Which brings us back to the question in the first paragraph of this game recap.

Bucks 102, Trail Blazers 95: The Bucks owned the second quarter. Completely. They started it on a 16-0 run (sparked by 9 second quarter points from J.J. Redick), the Blazers shot 2-of-20 in the second quarter and the Bucks ran away with the game. Milwaukee led by as many as 27 and while Portland made some runs they were rebuffed by Brandon Jennings (24 points) and Monta Ellis (20). LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Pacers 95, Magic 73: Burn the tape of this game. Banish it from the face of the earth. This game was that hard to watch, especially the first half. The Magic had 29 points on 26.1 percent shooting in the first 24 minutes. By then the Pacers were running away with the game. Tyler Hansbrough got the start (David West’s back hurts) and had 14 points and 14 rebounds in a strong game for Indiana, Paul George chipped in 19. Only two Magic players reached into double digits and they each had 10 (Arron Afflalo and Mo Harkless).

Sixers’ Joel Embiid upgraded to “probable,” will start in Game 3 Thursday

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play. And he is expected to start. How many minutes he can go remains to be seen.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.

PBT Podcast: NBA first round playoff series breakdowns

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LeBron James‘ Cavaliers looks to be in a battle royal in the first round — and they could lose to Victor Oladipo‘s Pacers.

Miami’s defense and versatility is challenging the Sixers and shaking the faith of all those that just jumped on the bandwagon.

Utah stole a game in Oklahoma City showing great grit and resolve, not to mention a lot of Donovan Mitchell.

Anthony Davis has done everything but walk on water for the Pelicans.

The first round of the NBA playoffs has been filled with fascinating storylines — and we are just two games into each series. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all eight first-round series in this podcast, starting in the East and the tight races there, then move into the West. There’s even some “who wants to pay Jabari Parker this summer?” talk thrown in.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

James Dolan says Knicks must build around ‘great’ Kristaps Porzingis, offers fair rebuke of meddling charges

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Phil Jackson received a standing ovation in his first game at Madison Square Garden as Knicks president. Don’t forget how excited New York was for Jackson, who coached the Bulls and Lakers to 11 championships and played for the Knicks’ last title team. He was welcomed as a potential savior.

The common refrain: Jackson would have a chance to succeed if Knicks owner James Dolan didn’t meddle.

Immediately, Dolan said he would cede control to Jackson “willingly and gratefully.” Dolan later pledged to honor Jackson’s full five-year contract.

But fans turned on Jackson as he did an awful job and the Knicks struggled. Dolan opted into the final two years of Jackson’s contract, anyway, as he said he would all along. Fans got angrier. When Jackson publicly flaunted Kristaps Porzingis trade talks, outrage reached a fever pitch. Finally, Dolan stepped in to fire Jackson.

Dolan, via Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

“A great player in hockey is the difference, but a great player in basketball is the team.

“And I think we have a great player in Porzingis. We just have to build around him.”

“Everybody who wants to talk about the Knicks wants to ask me about Phil Jackson,” Dolan said, smiling and shaking his head. “The entire market wanted to me to hire him and when I did, the entire market said it was a great move. The only thing was, everyone said that I shouldn’t interfere with him.

“Three years later, everyone wanted to know when I was going to do something about Phil. The same people who told me not to interfere wanted me to interfere. But that’s OK. I just think that Phil underestimated the job.”

Dolan makes a salient point about how people perceive his involvement. The problem isn’t that Dolan meddles. It’s that he makes poor decisions.

Hiring Jackson – an out-of-touch former coach with no front-office experience – was a poor decision. I’m not enthused about Steve Mills as Jackson’s replacement, either, though we’ll see how that plays out.

Building around Porzingis is a better decision. He’s an extremely talented 22-year-old.

But it’s hardly a foolproof plan. Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL. Dolan said Porzingis could return in December – or miss next season entirely.

Either way, the Knicks must surround Porzingis with better teammates. Dolan will and should be a part of that process. Whether he’ll positively affect it is another matter.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.