Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while dreaming of a Bill & Ted sequel

Lakers 109, Raptors 107: Ball denial. If the game is on the line, if the Lakers have one last shot to win it, play ball denial. Double team immediately and hard. Get the ball out of his hands, even if it means someone else gets a better shot. Do not – DO NOT – let Kobe Bean Bryant shoot it.

As for the other 47 minutes, 51 seconds of the game: Andrew Bynum is like a microcosm of the Lakers. When he is challenged – like facing Chris Bosh — he rises up with a great performance (both bigs had 22 points but Bynum did it with 8 of 12 shooting to Bosh’s 7 of 18, and Bosh had just one more rebound). Bosh, however, did hit the game-tying three. Toronto had its stretches as well, often fueled by them running the pick-and-roll with some style. They are sort of like Orlando in that Toronto has the depth to space the floor with good shooters, including bigs, that open things up and then they run the pick-and-roll well and they become a very difficult cover.

Magic 113, Clippers 87: The Clippers fell victim to one of the classic blunders — the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” — but only slightly less well-known is this: Never get into a jump shooting contest with the Orlando Magic.

The Magic took away the Clippers penetration (it helped to have Eric Gordon out, and passive Baron Davis came off the bench for LA). So the Clippers had to settle for contested jump shots. The Clippers could not stop the Magic’s penetration, which led to drive and dish for open outside jumpers for Orlando. And there you have your blowout.

Rockets 96, Wizards 88: We got to see a little hot Argentine on Argentine action — Fabricio Oberto matched up on Luis Scola. And both played some of their most inspired ball in a long time — we actually saw a post move out of Oberto. Scola, however, is far more talented and finished with a game high 23 on 8 of 16 shooting.

Pacers 107, 76ers 96: Where the hell have these Pacers been hiding? The ones that move the ball. The ones where the players cut to the basket. The ones that make smart passes. The ones that normally assist on 55 percent of their baskets but did so for 76 percent in this game. Because, seriously, these Pacers were fun to watch. And I have not written that sentence once this season.

Bobcats 83, Heat 78: Good defense from both squads, but he Bobcats really turned it up after the break and allowed just 30 second half points. Wade got is 27 points for the game, but needed 26 shots to do it. Not that anybody shot well in this one.

Jazz 132, Bulls 107: Wow the Bulls defense has gone to hell without Noah. And the Jazz are the perfect team to exploit that. And they did – 132 points in just a 95-possession game. Nights like this have you thinking the Bulls are the team that will end up on the outside in the East.

Bucks 86, Celtics 84: When the Celtics beat the Wizards at the buzzer just two nights before, Mike Miller was wiped out by a Kevin Garnett screen and his man, Ray Allen, came free for a good look at a three pointer. Net and win for the Celtics. In the same situation down two with four seconds to go Tuesday, the Celtics this time run Paul Pierce off a KG screen, but the Bucks play it better and switch it so that suddenly all seven feet of Andrew Bogut comes out on Pierce and he has to put extra arc on his shot, it misses and the Bucks win. That is how you defend late in games, people.

Trail Blazers 88, Kings 81: That is why Portland went and got Marcus Camby at the trade deadline. He can change a game on defense and that is what he did late in this one, after the Kings had battled back to tie it. Overall the Blazers held the Kings to just a 92 points per 100 possessions pace, well off their season average. It wasn’t a pretty win, but they don’t all have to be. The Kings don’t make it easy, while a lot of lottery teams are rolling over right now, the Kings will fight you. Blazers fans should just happily take the win.

Rudy Gobert re-energized ahead of Jazz at Thunder

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Rudy Gobert didn’t hide his disappointment at not making the NBA All-Star Game for the first time despite averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while leading the league in field-goal percentage.

But coming off the 10-day break, the Utah Jazz center says he’s re-energized heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Just recharge, completely — mentally, physically,” Gobert said. “For me, I was able to get a little bit of sun and feel a lot better when I get back.

“The next two months, I feel like, will be a lot better.”

The Jazz, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, come out of the break sixth in the Western Conference but with one of the NBA’s easiest schedules down the stretch.

Utah plays just eight of its final 25 games against teams that are above .500.

One of those, though, is Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, which sits third in the West after winning 11 of 13 before the break.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have one of the league’s most challenging schedules moving forward. Oklahoma City plays 17 of its remaining 25 games against teams above .500 including each of the first five out of the break.

The Thunder have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 122-113 win on Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma City win would clinch the season series for the Thunder after Utah eliminated Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs last season.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has a streak of 10 consecutive triple-doubles. During that stretch, he’s averaged 21.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 13.5 assists.

Utah is hopeful backup point guard Dante Exum, who has missed the last 17 games with a left ankle sprain, will be able to return against the Thunder.

“I think when he’s playing well, he can have a big impact for us and having him back soon is going to help us a lot,” Gobert said.

The Thunder could have forward Markieff Morris available for the first time. Morris signed with Oklahoma City over the All-Star break after being waived by New Orleans following his trade from Washington on Feb. 7.

Morris was averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Wizards this season before suffering a neck injury in late December that has kept him out since. Morris was cleared to play two weeks ago.

“We got a big piece in Markieff that we’re excited for, and we’re going to be ready for the second half after this break,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “We’ll see,” when asked Thursday if Morris would play against the Jazz.

The Thunder also figure to have both starting forward Jerami Grant and backup point guard Dennis Schroder back after each missed the last two games before the break, Grant with an ankle injury and Schroder after the birth of his child.

Friday’s game is the start of a back-to-back for both teams, with the Jazz hosting Dallas on Saturday and Oklahoma City hosting Sacramento.

 

Raptors fans welcome DeMar DeRozan back with loud, standing ovation

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DeMar DeRozan was the greatest Raptor ever. He was an All-Star, he presided over the best seasons in franchise history, and he’s the one guy who re-signed and stood up for a city that has an inferiority complex around its basketball team.

Toronto fans understood the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the team — it’s an upgrade on the court — but their love for DeRozan is real.

They showed that on Friday night when DeRozan returned to Toronto for the first time as a member of the Spurs — he got a raucous ovation upon his introduction.

Early in the game he gave them a taste of what he did for them for years, getting the and-1 bucket on the drive.

Marcus Smart hits halfcourt shot at practice, celebrates with a back flip

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The celebration is more impressive than the shot.

After a tough loss to Milwaukee on Thursday, the Celtics traveled to Chicago to take on the Bulls on Saturday. Friday they had a practice in the Northwestern University facility.

It’s there Marcus Smart drains a halfcourt shot. Impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the backflip celebration.

I did not know Smart had that in him.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer reportedly tells organization he still wants playoff push

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When the Clippers traded their best player — Tobias Harris — right before the trade deadline, it was a move generally seen as throwing in the towel on this season’s playoffs, but it was applauded around the league because of the haul it brought back to L.A. It set the Clippers up with one max cap slot this summer and a reasonable path to a second one, plus the Clippers landed rookie shooting guard Landry Shamet, Philadelphia’s 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected) and the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round pick unprotected.

Except then the Clippers not long after traded for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green — boosting the roster’s depth in needed spots. Not a move a team looking to fall out of the playoffs makes.

That’s because owner Steve Ballmer doesn’t want them to fall out of the playoffs, reports Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources say Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has let it be known throughout the organization that he wants to keep making this playoff push. Never mind that such an accomplishment would cost them their first-round pick this season.

The coach and players should never be told to lose games, they need to go all-out every time they are on the court. That goes to the culture of an organization. If a decision is made to focus on the future, then it’s about roster decisions at the GM level. That is what the Clippers did, and there is nothing wrong — or even strange — about the owner telling them to push and try to make the playoffs.

Either way, it works for Los Angeles.

Make the playoffs as the eight seed and the Clippers are likely just the first-round appetizer for the Warriors as they chase a three-peat, but it shows potential free agents the role players on the team have grit and just need a star and leader. Their young stars would gain a little playoff experience. While the Clippers would lose this year’s first-round pick, giving up a late teens pick in what is considered a down draft (especially after No. 1) is not that painful a loss. It’s one less asset to throw in a potential trade (Anthony Davis anyone?), but it’s not devastating.

Miss the playoffs and they get a late-lottery pick and things go as expected.

Make or miss the playoffs, the Clippers are focused on July 1 and landing a couple of free agents, with Kawhi Leonard at the top of the list (and a lot of sources around the league think that’s where they are headed).