Marc Gasol, Kevin Durant

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Night of wild finishes all over NBA map

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while reading the oral history of Ace of Bass’ one hit….

Heat 98, Cavaliers 95: Crazy game. I mean certifiable, off its meds kind of game. Starting with a 40-minute delay at the start to fix a coolant leak in the scoreboard that was dripping fluid on the court. Then the Cavaliers were hot and went up 27 points. Then the Heat came back behind LeBron James’ triple double. Then… oh, just read our recap. Too much for this space. Just know Miami has 24 wins in a row now.

Grizzlies 90, Thunder 89 (OT): Marc Gasol became the hero when he tipped in Zach Randolph’s miss with 0.8 seconds left, but this game seemed set several times to have a different hero.

Kevin Durant scored 15 of his 32 points in the third quarter, making the game competitive after Oklahoma City fell behind by double digits. Kevin Martin made a 3-pointer with 1:25 left in regulation, snapping a 1-for-30 skid by Thunder 3-point shooters and giving Oklahoma City a game-best six-point lead. Jerryd Bayless scored seven points in the final 11 seconds of regulation, including the game-tying 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left.

But in the end, Gasol fittingly closed a game in which both teams shot below 36 percent by handling a missed shot better than anyone else on the floor.
—Dan Feldman

Rockets 100, Jazz 97: This game was huge for the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture — the Rockets are now the seven seed and a full three games up on the nine seed Jazz (the Lakers split the difference, 1.5 back of the Rockets and 1.5 up on the Jazz). The Rockets didn’t secure a playoff spot with win, but it helps. A lot.

The Rockets were out to an early lead in this one, getting their buckets in transition and doing pretty much whatever they wanted. James Harden was getting to the free throw line all night — 17 of his 29 points came at the stripe. Jeremy Lin had 24 points on 13 shots. The Rockets were up as many as 26, and while the Jazz made it a little more interesting in the fourth quarter behind 14 points from Gordon Hayward (he finished with 27) the game never really felt in doubt.

Spurs 104, Warriors 93: Tim Duncan does not age. Well, that or he’s a Terminator. One or the other. He had 25 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to be at the heart of the Spurs win. San Antonio took the lead with a 19-2 run in the second quarter (one sparked mostly by their bench) and held it the rest of the way. The Warriors made a fourth quarter comeback behind the efforts of Stephen Curry (24 points) and it was his free throws that cut it to a four point game with 3:30 left. But then the Spurs answered with a 12-3 run, with Duncan scoring 6 of the points and picking up an assist on a Manu Ginobili three.

With the win the Spurs are 2.5 games clear of Oklahoma City for best record in the West. With the loss Golden State, the six seed, is tied in the loss column with the seven seed Rockets.

Nets 113, Mavericks 96: When one team has two players who outperform everyone else on the other team by a wide margin, it’s pretty much a guarantee they’re going to win the game. And, in this contest, that was the case for Nets.

Deron Williams scored 31 points and handed out 6 assists in this one, absolutely torching his hometown Mavs in the process. Not to be outdone, however, Brook Lopez was even better that than, scoring 38 points while grabbing 11 rebounds in his demolition of the Mavericks’ frontline. Neither Net could be close to slowed down, much less stopped and it was on the backs of these two that the Nets were able to shoot 50.6% from the floor and get pretty much everything they wanted on offense all night.

And while the Mavericks did their best to keep up, they simply didn’t have enough. Dirk Nowitzki was hot all night, hitting 8 of his 10 shots to score 16 points. Chris Kaman also had a solid night offensively in scoring 14 points on 7-12 shooting. And while the Mavs were able to shoot 50% as a team, the difference was that they lacked the explosiveness that the Nets brought to this game and couldn’t overcome that with multiple complementary performances to Dirk and Kaman or by defending well enough where they wouldn’t need those bigger offensive nights.
—Darius Soriano

Knicks 106, Magic 94: It didn’t take long into Carmelo Anthony’s return for everyone to notice he was moving much better (after having his knee drained). Or for him to make a difference — Anthony had 7 first quarter points to help spark an early 19-4 run that gave the Knicks a lead they never relinquished. The Magic made some pushes and kept close at times (it was 51-46 Knicks at the half) but they could never close the gap all the way. J.R. Smith helped with that, scoring 22 points off the bench, and efficiently on just 16 shots.

Mike Woodson did not easy Anthony back into the game, he played nearly 33 minutes. But the Knicks needed him to hold off the feisty Magic.

Clippers 101, 76ers 72: Running, gunning Lob City was back in full force as the Clippers just controlled this game from the second quarter on and had no problems cruising to a win. It was tied after one quarter, but the Clippers opened the second quarter on an 11-1 run, and that was it. Chris Paul had 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds and five steals — and he sat most of the fourth quarter.

Hawks 98, Bucks 90: Atlanta won this game in the third quarter, when it held Milwaukee to 31.6 percent shooting and outscored them 29-16 behind 12 points in the quarter from Jeff Teague (who finished with 27 points and 11 assists). Al Horford had a big night of 26 points and 15 rebounds.

The Hawks remain the five seed in the East, two games back of the four-seed Nets (and home court in the first round) but also just one game up on six seed Chicago. The Bucks are the eight seed and while there is no chance of the 76ers catching them from behind they don’t look like they can catch seven seed Boston, either.

Hornets 87, Celtics 86: Anthony Davis may have only had 9 points and 8 rebounds, but his last second tip-in was the difference in this game, propelling the Hornets to the victory while leaving the Celtics struggling to figure out how it all went bad.

But, if the Celtics are looking for answers, they need only look at how much more physical the Hornets were than them in this game. The Hornets out-rebounded the Celtics 45-28, including an 11 to 4 edge on the offensive end. The Hornets also looked to attack the paint most of the night, taking over half of their shots in the restricted area and earning 26 foul shots in the process. Ryan Anderson was especially assertive in getting to the line, making 9 of his 11 attempts to help him score his team high 21 points. Eric Gordon (18 points) and Greivis Vasquez (13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) were also very good in staying aggressive against a stingy Celtic defense.

On Boston’s side, it was Paul Pierce’s 28 points on only 9-17 shooting and Kevin Garnett’s 20 points on 9-16 shooting that kept them in the game while the rest of their team struggled to put together consistent offense. During a key stretch from late in the 3rd to the middle of the 4th quarter, the Celtics only scored 8 points which essentially allowed the Hornets to stay close enough to steal this game at the end.
—Darius Soriano

Wizards 88, Suns 79: John Wall (19 points and eight assists) bested Goran Dragic (18 points and 11 assists) in a matchup of good point guards on bad teams thanks to a little help from the Phoenix. The Wizards broke open a one-point game with a 15-0 second-quarter run, but the Suns’ shots during that run came from 17, 14, 26, 20, 17 and 23 feet — low-value distances.
Washington’s first win in Phoenix since 2006 gives the Wizards their fourth season sweep of a Western Conference team, adding to a hodge-podge group that already included the Nuggets, Hornets and Trail Blazers.
—Dan Feldman

Bobcats 107, Raptors 101: I watched maybe 10 minutes of this and it felt like two teams showing up to collect their paychecks as they play out the string. Not much else to report. Rudy Gay had 25 points and was in move with his jump shot. The Bobcats bench won the game, outscoring the Raptors bench 54-13.

New challenges face Portland guard CJ McCollum in Year four

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum poses for a photograph during NBA basketball media day in Portland, Ore., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) CJ McCollum became a starter for the Trail Blazers last season, broke out as the NBA’s Most Improved Player then signed a big contract over the summer.

Driving him all along the way was third-year pressure.

“Because I knew that was a make-or-break year for me. I know that going into year three I hadn’t played particularly well. I’d had flashes, but I just didn’t sustain a level of consistency for a season.

“In our league you get three years, you get traded, you get put in a box and they say `This is what you are,”‘ McCollum said when the team convened this week for training camp.

The 25-year-old guard became a star in the Blazers’ backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team’s starters left in the offseason.

With one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Blazers were considered a team that was rebuilding.

But they surpassed expectations, finishing 44-38 and earning the fifth seed in the Western Conference and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

At one point last season, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle referred to Lillard and McCollum as “a younger version of those Golden State guys.”

McCollum averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists during the regular season. He had 197 3-pointers, fourth most for the Blazers in one season. He scored in double figures in 79 games.

He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season and the dramatic turnaround earned him the Most Improved Player award.

That improvement was the most since Tony Campbell from an average of 6.2 points to 23.2 points with Minnesota between the ’88-89 and `89-90 seasons.

McCollum averaged 20.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the postseason last season.

But at times he was nervous that he was just an injury away from seeing all the hard work fizzle away.

“It was nerve-wracking for me because if you get hurt so many times you fear it. You’re like, `Oh, this could be it,”‘ he said. “So for me to get through a season healthy and to play well, it was comforting.”

McCollum, the 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Lehigh, missed the first 34 games of his rookie season with a foot injury.

The next season he was a reserve, but he started to turn heads down the stretch and into the playoffs after starter Wesley Matthews was knocked out with a ruptured Achilles. His postseason included a 33-point game against Memphis.

This summer the Blazers solidified their backcourt for years to come by signing McCollum to a four-year contract worth $106 million. It will keep him in Portland through the 2020-21 season.

While McCollum says he feels “less pressure” this season, he’s still looking to grow. The Blazers signed free agent Evan Turner in the offseason to help shore up the Blazers’ depth at guard.

“As a younger player you just play and react,” McCollum said. “As an older player you start to get more experience and you start to `think’ the game. I think once I put those two things together I can be a special player.”

Report: With new building set to open, Sacramento pushes to host 2020 All-Star Game

The Sacramento Kings released the NBA basketball team's new logo, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The new logo has a reshaped crown and new typeface meant to convey a modern look. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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In just a few weeks, the new arena that kept the Kings in Sacramento is set to open. It’s a well-designed basketball-first facility that both the fans and players should love.

Now the Kings want to show that building off to everybody and host a future All-Star Game, reports James Ham of CSNCalifornia.com.

It’s not uncommon for a team with a new building to get to host the All-Star Game. The 2017 game is in New Orleans, 2018 is in Los Angeles, 2019 will go to Charlotte if the “bathroom bill” is repealed (or strongly modified). That makes 2020 the next one up.

The Kings new building is in downtown Sacramento, in a growing area close to the California state capital. The only question is whether that area has enough hotel rooms and nearby convention space to handle the massive influx of people that come to an All-Star Game. The league office has this mapped out, it knows how many hotel rooms it needs in close proximity to the arena, for example. If Sacramento can meet all those qualifications, it could well land the February showdown.

Sixers players have dinner with Will Smith

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Actor Will Smith attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Focus" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Ali. Men in Black. I am Legend. Fresh Prince. Suicide Squad. Independence Day. Plus more than a few movies he’d like us to forget (hello Hancock).

Will Smith is all that — and part owner of the Philadephia 76ers.

As training camp opened, Smith took his team out to dinner, according to the Sixers official site.

Jahlil Okafor and his teammates weren’t told that the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning entertainer from West Philadelphia would be dining with them.

“It was great, it was a lot of fun,” said Okafor, who participated in Tuesday’s practice, despite sustaining a minor ankle sprain a few weeks ago. “Will Smith is my favorite celebrity, my favorite actor. It was great to hear him speak.”

Smith shared stories and passed along advice to a crowd consisting mostly of early to mid 20-year olds who grew up on his movies and albums.

“I think the main thing he said is the company you have around you,” Joel Embiid said. “He was trying to explain the people you have around you affect the type of person you are. He was just trying to tell us to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

It’s a good lesson for the Sixers in what could be a season of lessons coming for the Philadephia. This team is going to be better than it was a year ago, but don’t confuse that with good. They may get there someday, but there are a lot of hard lessons to learn between now and then.

But it’s a lot more fun to get some of those lessons from Will Smith.

Report: Other teams offered Denver first round picks for Will Barton, answer was no

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 23, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Nuggets defeated the Suns 104-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Picking up Will Barton as part of the Arron Afflalo trade a couple of seasons back was one of the smartest moves of the Nuggets front office. Before last season they signed him to a three-year, $10 million deal and he blossomed as his jumper became a real weapon — this season he’s a guy to watch in the Sixth Man of the Year race.

A good player on a good contract? You can be sure other teams will try to poach him.

Which is exactly what happened, reports Christopher Dempsy at the Denver Post.

Now he’s being praised after a breakout season that landed him in the thick of the conversation for postseason awards, that had other teams offering first-round picks to nab him, and that had opponents highlighting him on scouting reports as a player to stop.

At age 25 Barton is part of a young core in Denver that includes Emanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and others. Why would Denver let Barton go?

At some point maybe Denver will move him to get a player at a position they need more. But that time is not today, Barton is still part of the plan in Denver. And it’s going to take him a lot to pry him away (that first round pick is going to have to be high up the board).