New York Knicks' Martin congratulates Anthony after being fouled by Memphis Grizzlies during their NBA basketball game in New York

Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Heat finally lose, Knicks now streaking

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while trying to figure out what caused these pond circles

Bulls 101, Heat 97: It had to end sometime, and Wednesday was the night Miami finally lost after winning 27 straight, ending the second longest streak of victories in NBA history. We broke it all down here.

Thunder 103, Wizards 80: If you were wondering what John Wall would do for an encore, after pouring in a career-high 47 points the other night against the Grizzlies, the answer might have been just a bit disappointing.

Wall finished with 18 points and 12 assists, but shot just 3-18 from the field as the Thunder made sure that they weren’t going to lose solely because one capable scorer on the opposing team got loose.

Russell Westbrook finished with 21 points in 25 minutes, Kevin Durant finished with 20, and Kevin Martin did what he was supposed to off the bench for OKC with 18 points on 6-9 shooting. The Thunder led by 17 heading into the fourth, and the final period was nothing more than extended garbage time.

Jazz 103, Suns 88: Players don’t tank games, but organizations can, and Phoenix decided to “rest” Goran Dragic, who was coming off of a huge game against Brooklyn on Sunday where he tallied 31 points, nine rebounds, and 12 assists. The loss for Phoenix helped the Jazz stay in the playoff hunt, and should Utah overtake the Lakers for the eighth and final spot in the West, the Suns would be just fine with that, considering that they own the rights to L.A.’s first round draft pick this summer.

Nets 111, Trail Blazers 93: Reggie Evans, despite playing just 17:43 of a possible 24 minutes, outrebounded Portland in the first half. He fell behind the Trail Blazers by only a single rebound to end the third quarter, but by that point, he already had 21 points and 21 rebounds. Evans finished with 26 rebounds (career high) and 22 points (career-high tying). P.J. Carlesimo called Evans’ game “absurd.” The Trail Blazers called it their second straight blowout loss, as their playoff hopes are fading. — Dan Feldman

Bobcats 114, Magic 108: The race for the No. 1 seed in the NBA lottery – in this balanced-at-the-top-draft, a coveted position due the a floor of the fourth pick rather than increased odds at the No. 1 pick – got a little closer with Charlotte’s “lead” slipping to a half game over Orlando.

These late-season games between bad teams aren’t just about lottery odds, though. They’re about developing young talent, and the Magic are doing that with Tobias Harris. Harris had 29 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three blocks and a steal. Only LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Lamar Odom have been younger than the 20-year-old Harris and posted those numbers in a game since at least 1985-86. The Bobcats – with Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson each scoring 34 points – can also claim their youngsters are progressing. — Dan Feldman

Lakers 120, Timberwolves 117: Only Kobe Bryant played in Minnesota’s last victory over the Lakers – 22 Los Angeles wins in the matchup ago – and remains on either team’s roster. For a split second Wednesday, Bryant looked like he was no longer involved in this overwhelming streak, and it could have cost his team the game. Bryant missed a free throw with the Lakers leading by thee points and 3.4 seconds remaining. Ricky Rubio grabbed the rebound, and darted past Kobe – who was holding up his arm like has posing for the statue the Lakers will eventually build of him in front of the Staples Center – pushing the ball past mid-court and getting off a relatively good look at a long 3-pointer. Kobe can be forgiven, because he recovered in time to contest Rubio’s shot (and maybe foul the Minnesota point guard, though no call was made) and because he scored 31 points on 21 shots.

Dwight Howard had 25 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks and five steals. Since 2003, only DeMarcus Cousins and Ruben Patterson had posted those totals, so, yeah. — Dan Feldman

Pacers 100, Rockets 91: Roy Hibbert was the deciding factor. He scored a season-high 28 points with three assists and three offensive rebounds, but that’s not why he was the deciding factor. The Rockets have the NBA’s seventh-best offensive rating (107), but in Hibbert’s 37 minutes, Houston’s offensive rating dipped to 85. Hibbert finished with 10 defensive rebounds and three blocks.

Lance Stephenson (21 points) nearly breaking even with James Harden (22 points) and needing 10 fewer shots to do so also keyed Indiana’s win. — Dan Feldman

Celtics 93, Cavaliers 92: Boston came from 13 points down with less than seven and a half minutes to play, thanks to nine fourth quarter points from Jeff green, including the game-winning layup just before time expired.

Sixers 100, Bucks 92: Milwaukee led this one in the fourth quarter after the Sizers gave back all of an early 18-point lead, before Philadelphia went on an 18-2 run late to regain control and seal the win.

The story for the Bucks was the benching of Brandon Jennings, who played just two minutes in the second half and wasn’t at all happy about it afterward.

“I think that everyone should be held accountable,” he said. “There’s no maxed-out players in this locker room. So don’t try to put me on a pedestal and just give everyone else the freedom to do whatever they want.”

Knicks 108, Grizzlies 101: Guess who now has the longest active winning streak in the NBA? That would be your New York Knicks at six. And this may be the most impressive Knicks win in a while, handling one of the West’s stronger sides from the start. The Grizzlies have the second best defense in the NBA this season (on points per possession) yet the Knicks put up 37 first quarter points behind 13 from Iman Shumpert (he finished with 16) and 11 from Carmelo Anthony (he finished with 22).

Then the J.R. Smith show started — 35 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Smith was attacking, getting to the free throw line and generally being a beast. The Knicks led by as many as 30 but the Grizzlies fought back to make it interesting late. Still, there was Smith with 10 fourth-quarter points to keep things in line. Memphis was led by point guard Mike Conley with 28. — Kurt Helin

Kings 105, Warriors 98: Mark Jackson went out of his way to say how much better his Warriors were than the Lakers after their home win against L.A. on Monday. While that’s unquestionably true, it means little if the next game is followed up with a loss at home to a team that sits near the bottom of the conference standings.

Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 31 points for Sacramento, and on a night where Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot just 6-31 from the field, that was more than enough.

Spurs 100, Nuggets 99: This game had everything — a Danny Green sighting (19 points in the first half), the good JaVale McGee, plus Tim Duncan and Tony Parker making plays. But it was a Manu Ginobili three (his first of the night, he was off his game) gave the Spurs a five-point lead they would never relinquish.

The Nuggets had the final shot to win it, but they went to Danilo Gallinari, who just doesn’t create his own shot well. So he passes to Andre Miller, who is forced to drive and shoot as time expires, and he just can’t knock down the runner. Duncan is the star of the game with 23 points with 14 rebounds. — Kurt Helin

Hawks 107, Raptors 88: With this win the Hawks secure a playoff berth. They did it with a monster fourth quarter, outscoring Toronto 32-13 in the final frame. Al Horford had 10 points in the fourth and finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Jeff Teague finished with 24 points and 13 assists, while Josh Smith added 19 points for Atlanta. Rudy Gay refused to be shut down with a back injury and had 15 points and 12 rebounds, but it’s wasn’t enough. — Kurt Helin

Clippers 105, Hornets 91: The Clippers were launching up threes all night, but when you hit 13-of-29 that’s works pretty well. Combine that with the Clippers grabbing the offensive rebound on 32 percent of their missed shots — thing about it, they got a second shot on nearly one in every three missed shots — and it was too much for the Hornets. Chris Paul had 16 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals, Blake Griffin added 19 points. Eric Gordon returned and had 24 for the Hornets while Anthony Davis added 19 points and nine rebounds — the No. 1 overall pick continues to put up impressive numbers. He’s going to be a big star in this league. — Kurt Helin

Mario Chalmers says he’s cleared to play

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers moves the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Washington. Chalmers was ejected in the first half. The Wizards won 100-91. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.

Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.

Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.

Chalmers:

Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?

A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.

Report: John Wall ‘rankled’ by James Harden’s high-paying Rockets contract

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards is defended by James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in the second half at Verizon Center on March 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. 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 Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Bradley Beal isn’t the only player bothering John Wall.

James Harden – who’s earning a lot of money from the Rockets and adidas – is drawing the ire of the Wizards point guard.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

One league source familiar with Wall’s state of mind simply put it this way: “Wall’s got jealousy issues. He’s always upset with someone who makes more money than him.”

A front office executive tells The Ringer that Wall was “rankled” after Harden signed a four-year, $118 million extension with the Rockets.

O’Connor also pointed out this line from Nick DePaula of Yahoo Sports on Wall rejected adidas’ offer:

“He wanted Harden money,” a source told The Vertical.

I wonder how Wall feels about Beal’s max contract, which pays much more than Wall’s deal. Wall didn’t like Reggie Jackson, another lesser player, earning the same amount as him.

The union rejecting cap smoothing in light of the new national TV contracts has certainly adversely affected Wall, who locked in long-term just before the salary cap explosion became known. As other players sign huge contracts, he’s stuck on his old-money deal.

Washington could’ve renegotiated and extended Wall’s contract, but it would have been more complicated than Harden’s arrangement. Wall has three years remaining to what was previously two for Harden. How much extra money would the Wizards have paid Wall over the next three years just to get him committed for one more year? Instead, they signed Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith.

I’m also unsure Wall would’ve accepted an extension. He doesn’t seem overly happy in Washington, and a raise via renegotiation was coming only if Wall provided something in return – an additional year of team control added to his contract.

And don’t lose track of this: Harden is better than Wall.

I don’t mind Wall monitoring other players’ contracts. That jealousy or whatever you want to call it has driven Wall to become a star NBA player. Whatever motivation works.

But demanding Harden’s deal is unrealistic. The Wizards also ought to be mindful of how Beal’s new contract affects chemistry, but that’s their problem.

Wall’s issue – as a player, not endorser – is primarily theoretical. He’s tied to his current contract, and lesser players will earn more than him due simply to timing. He must find a way to make peace with that.

51Q: Is there any reason the Jazz won’t be really good?

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 25:  Gordon Hayward #20 of the Utah Jazz celebrates his three point during a timeout with Derrick Favors #15 and the bench at Staples Center on November 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Today is day two of PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:

Is there any reason the Jazz won’t be really good?

The Utah Jazz barely missed the playoffs last season, but virtually no team in the middle tier of the league is as universally adored for their direction. They’re well-coached by Quin Snyder, have a roster that makes sense together and made sensible moves this summer to get better. Barring injuries, they should be a lock to make the postseason for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

In the non-Warriors category, it’s hard to argue that very many teams had better offseasons than the Jazz when it comes to filling holes on their roster without giving up any core pieces. Utah’s weakest position last season was point guard — with Dante Exum out for the year rehabbing a torn ACL, things got so bad that a midseason trade for career backup Shelvin Mack was considered a major upgrade. This summer, they flipped a lottery pick they didn’t really want to Atlanta in a three-team deal that got them George Hill, as solid a starting-caliber point guard as would realistically be available for them. Hill’s playmaking and outside shooting immediately improve Utah’s offense and gives Snyder a rock-solid veteran to take pressure off Exum coming back from missing a full year of action. Even if the Jazz view Exum as their long-term answer at point guard, it’s going to take him a full year to get back up to speed, and having Hill means he has to do less right away.

The Jazz’ other major upgrade came with the signing of seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson to a two-year, $22 million deal. Johnson isn’t a first or second option on offense anymore at this point in his career, but as a veteran scorer off the bench, he can still be effective and should be a great fit in the offense. Taking on Boris Diaw‘s contract could prove savvy, too, if he’s as engaged as he was in San Antonio.

Beyond the roster upgrades, the driving force of all the Jazz optimism this summer is how well all of their young pieces fit together, and the potential for improvement from all of them. Nobody knows what Exum will be, but even if Utah gets nothing out of him, they have an enviable core just entering its prime. Rudy Gobert is one of the most lethal rim protectors in the league at 24 years old. Derrick Favors has developed into an excellent all-around power forward. Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood provide a potent scoring combo on the perimeter, and if Alec Burks is healthy, he can help there too.

The Jazz are also the beneficiaries of the shifting balance of power in the Western Conference. The Thunder lost Kevin Durant and while they’re probably still a playoff team, they’re far from a lock. The Blazers spent a lot of money but didn’t necessarily get better, and may have overachieved last season. The Timberwolves, despite having arguably the brightest future in the league, are still probably a couple years away. The Rockets and Grizzlies are still total question marks, and the Pelicans haven’t been able to construct a solid group around Anthony Davis. Meanwhile, the Jazz are sitting there with the least downside of any of these bubble teams, not a lot of rotation question marks and play in a division without a clear-cut favorite.

Nobody thinks the Jazz are going to be title contenders, but looking up and down the west hierarchy, there isn’t a team that the Warriors or the Spurs should want to face less in the playoffs. And this year, they have the depth to get there.

Ryan McDonough: Suns plan to be ‘major players’ in 2017 free agency

Ryan McDonough
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The Suns have swung big in free agency the previous couple years, chasing LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in 2014 and LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015.

But 2016 appeared to be the year Phoenix really eyed.

The Suns structured the contracts of multiple players – including Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris – to have salaries that dipped this summer. Time that flexibility correctly, and it can really pay off.

Phoenix big prize? Jared Dudley.

Dudley is a nice player, but he’s hardly the star the Suns seek. So, they’ll try again next year.

Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

That’s been one of our frustrations this summer. We were kind of on the sideline for some of the marquee free agents. But as you know, Woj, it wasn’t the deepest free agent class.

Potentially, it’s a very strong free agent class next year. And one of the things we’ve done with our contracts is we’ve lined them up to have max cap space next year without really touching the core of our roster.

I think and I hope at this time next year, we’re major players in free agency. Because as you mentioned, the Phoenix Suns are a destination franchise.

The 2017 free agent class won’t be as strong as hoped.

LeBron James locked in for multiple years with the Cavaliers. Russell Westbrook signed a contract extension with the Thunder. Kevin Durant indicated he’ll re-sign with the Warriors. So has Stephen Curry. Blake Griffin is reportedly “adamant” about re-signing with the Clippers.

Teams will almost certainly match any offer for the top restricted free agents – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel – if they don’t extend their contracts first.

That still leaves several quality unrestricted free agents – including Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap – but Paul and Lowry are point guards. Phoenix already has Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, and Devin Booker looks like the shooting guard of the future. So, forget simply sliding Bledsoe or Knight to off guard. It’d take a major shakeup for Paul or Lowry to make sense with the Suns.

Still, McDonough’s approach is logical. If he can keep kicking the can down the road, perpetually selling that his plan is a year from taking it hold, it’ll make it easier for him to retain his prestigious job.

But if he has to make his 2017 free agency plan work rather than deferring to 2018, it could be difficult.

The Suns project to have about $17 million in cap space (under a system that could change significantly with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement). Renouncing restricted free agent Alex Len could clear about $12 million more, and just $500,000 of Leandro Barbosa‘s $4 million salary is guaranteed. Trading Tyson Chandler, Bledsoe and/or Knight could open even more space. Losing Len isn’t ideal, but for the right free agent, the upgrade would be worthwhile.

The bigger issue is winning. Phoenix has struggled to lure top free agents, because the team has missed the playoffs six straight years. That’s unlikely, though not impossible, to change this year. If the probabilities hold, what does McDonough sell then?

He always has the option of using cap space to facilitate uneven trades, a route he previously broached. Depending on the deal, that could encroach on 2017 cap space.

But if his plan holds, the Suns will keep their books relatively clear until next summer.