Baseline to Baseline, final night of the regular season

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What happened Wednesday while you were crying over the end of League Pass…


Magic 125 Sixers 111: The Sixers did their part, showing up to let the fans in Orlando have something to cheer against. Marreesse Speights needs to learn to play better defense, but he can score. 23 points for the young 22 year old, and if the Sixers are going to rebuild with a new coach, he’s got to be part of the plan. 
Howard did what Howard does, and dominated. The Magic followed suit. SVG commented post game that they’ve drilled bad teams in the second half of the season. 
No more gimmes. But the Magic look ready. 
Heat 94, Nets 86 (2OT): Best thing about this game?
It’s over. 
Let us never speak of it again. 
Bucks 106 Celtics 95: A gimme game, a no-point game, a useless game. And you’re still left asking “The Bucks put up 106 on the Celtics without Bogut? Wow.” And that says a lot about Milwaukee’s balance and about how many C’s missed this game. Perkins didn’t play, which meant…
The Dan Gadzuric show! Gadzey scored 14 and added 9 boards. If the Hawks were scouting this game, they wanted to focus in on Ilyasova, who played fantastic, and could be a matchup issue if his range is working. 
Bulls 98 Bobcats 89: The ‘Cats can zone out with the best of ’em, and the Bulls can plug in with the same. 
Joakim Noah looked healthy, folks. Really healthy. Best play of the night was Noah in transition, running point on the break (you read that right), picking up his dribble, leaving his feet, and dishing to a driving Gibson for the and-one lay-in. It was Deron Williams-esque. 
After Tyson Chandler went down, Bobcats couldn’t be bothered. The Cats were just happy to not have their season ending for once. Good for you, ‘Cats. Good on you, Bulls. 
Wizards 98 Pacers 97: Cedric Jackson, a D-Leaguer, hit the game winning shot with 1:31 to play for the Wizards in a meaningless comeback win for the Wizards over the Pacers. 
And that pretty much tells you about their seasons. 
No one, not even the Nets, is happier this season is over than the Wizards. 
Mavs 96 Spurs 89: The Spurs hung here. The Mavericks played their starters but were obviously tuned out, and once they got the lead, they just cultivated it enough to hang on. But the San Antonio bench showed a lot, even if both schemes were vanilla since they meet in four days for Game 1. 
DeJuan Blair had 27 and 23. Knees or no knees, those are some huge numbers. And he actually frustrated Dirk Nowitzki a bit. Something to keep an eye on. 

Thunder 114 Grizzles 105: Grizzlies checked out once Marc Gasol went out for the season a few weeks ago. And that should be noted because for as good as Z-Bo has been, Gasol is the heart of this squad. 
Meanwhile, the Thunder were tuning up sharp. Good ball rotations, good movement, good speed, good everything. They had the answers and they had the stroke. 
Rudy Gay is still as one-sided as he was at the beginning of last season .
Pistons 103 Wolves 98: Corey Brewer was brilliant, but Charlie Villanueva came through huge in the fourth. He forced the issue and created tons of baseline space. When that happened, the Wolves lost control. And they’re not a team that can get it back. 
Darko Milicic, the franchise savior, had six rebounds. 
Hornets 123 Rockets 115: The Rockets just ran out of steam. Much like their season. 
The Hornets looked good, and forced a lot of penetration. David West was lost in the failures of the Hornets this season, but he’s been tremendous in the second half of the season, and his 35 tonight was the type of dominance that the Hornets can win with next year. 

Suns 100 Jazz 86: Be afraid of this Suns team. The threes are there, sure. Nash, yeah. Amar’e, for sure. But there was defense out there tonight. Stifling, interrupting, bothering, frustrating defense. Don’t sleep on that. 
The Jazz without Carlos Boozer are frighteningly toothless, and couldn’t counter anything for the Suns defensively. 
Warriors 122 Blazers 116: Don Nelson dressed 8 players. Then three got hurt. Then one fouled out. The refs made him play an injured guy, before eventually letting him play the fouled out guy (Devean George) in exchange for a technical. 
And that’s the Dubs. 
Portland heads to postseason play with a dark cloud over them and Stephen Curry blasting them into pieces can’t make them feel any better.

Raptors 131, Knicks 113: Not a lot of defense in this one. And by not a lot we mean none. Made it fairly entertaining to watch. The difference here was simply that Toronto played like a team that wanted it and New York played like a team that wanted its season to end. They get their wish.

Hawks 99, Cavaliers 83: You could make really good team out of the guys who did not suit up for this one: LeBron James, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Shaquille O’Neal, Mike Bibby.

Without LeBron to create shots, the Cavaliers shooting percentage plummeted, particularly the 1 for 14 from three part. It was the kind of game where Jeff Teague takes over, he had 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting. Jeff Teague. It was that kind of game.

Clippers 107, Lakers 91: How seriously did the Lakers take this one?  Early in the third quarter, the Lakers had Adam Morrison trying to hang with Travis Outlaw. He can’t, by the way. But you probably already guessed that.

Steve Blake had the triple-double in this one — 23 points, 10 boards, and 11 assists. The Lakers bad defensive habits helped out, at one point Derek Fisher left Blake at the three-point arc to run down to the post and help Pau Gasol (covering DeAndre Jordan). Kick out and a buried three. Kept happening in variations all game long. But credit the Clippers for taking advantage.

Now, where is the lottery party again?

Rumor: Pelicans interested in trading for Wizards’ Otto Porter

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The Wizards (5-11) are open for business.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the big names in trade talks, but how about Otto Porter?

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

There are whispers that New Orleans is interested in Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr.

The Pelicans badly need an upgrade at small forward, and Porter – who has at least somewhat fallen out of favor in Washington – fits the bill. He’s an ideal role player – an excellent 3-point shooter and solid defensively when not overmatched defensively. He could become more assertive, but part of his value lies in his ability to blend. On a team with superstar Anthony Davis, complementary skills are important.

The catch: Porter is earning $26,011,913 this season then due $55,739,815 the next two years.

He’s overpaid, but he can still play. New Orleans, trying to impress Davis before offering him a super-max extension next summer, might view Porter as an acceptable risk. Especially if the Pelicans can unload overpaid Solomon Hill in a trade.

Washington could accept Hill and another player or two and even escape the luxury tax this season. The Wizards would surely want positive-value players and/or picks, too.

There seems to be a middle ground where a Porter trade appeals to both teams. The big question: Can Washington and New Orleans find it?

Report: Grizzlies in ‘extensive discussions’ with Joakim Noah

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Marc Gasol has been awesome this season. The 33-year-old is holding off questions about his decline that reached fever pitch last season. He’s deferring just a little more offensively to become much more efficient and save energy to play superb defense.

The Grizzlies have played like a 61-win team with him on the court this season.

But they’ve also played like a 17-win team when he sits.

A potential solution to Memphis backup-center problem? Joakim Noah.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ivan Rabb haven’t cut it at center behind Gasol. (Jackson has been better at power forward.) JaMychal Green could work, but he’s just getting healthy, and he’s also more of a power forward.

So, Noah could be another option. He definitely has the size for the position. Performing better than the Grizzlies’ other backup centers is not a high bar.

But I still doubt Noah helps Memphis. The 33-year-old looked so wash up with the Knicks, not even Tom Thibodeau would sign the former Bull.

Pelicans: Elfrid Payton out six weeks

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The Pelicans are 5-1 when Elfrid Payton plays and 4-6 when he doesn’t.

New Orleans will have to find a winning formula without its starting point guard.

Pelicans release:

New Orleans Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton, who suffered a fractured left fifth finger against the New York Knicks on November 16, will undergo surgery tomorrow to repair the fracture. Payton is expected to miss approximately six weeks.

It’s not that Payton is great, though he has been solid this season. It’s that the Pelicans are ill-equipped to deal with this injury.

Jrue Holiday can shift to point guard, but that weakens New Orleans even further on the wing. Without Payton, the Pelicans are also forced to give more playing time to substandard players at point guard: Ian Clark, Tim Frazier and Frank Jackson.

At least New Orleans can pivot its offense to run the ball through Anthony Davis and Julius Randle. Those skilled bigs can distribute.

The Pelicans are in the middle of a tight playoff race. They have little margin for error, and this injury cuts deeply into it.

Report: Cavaliers GM Koby Altman told LeBron James they wouldn’t trade Kyrie Irving

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LeBron James told the Cavaliers not to trade Kyrie Irving last year. LeBron didn’t do anything to win over the point guard, who asked out. But LeBron still told Cleveland not to honor the request.

LeBron’s last message on the top went to Cavs general manager Koby Altman shortly before they dealt Irving to the Celtics.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

James was adamant on the call — do not trade Irving, especially to the Celtics. By the end of the call, according to four separate accounts of people present for the conversation, Altman told James the trade would not occur.

James suggested he didn’t feel he was lied to by Altman, so much as Altman was overruled by owner Dan Gilbert.

“You realize at that point in time, take nothing from Koby, because Koby (was just named GM), but at that point in time, you realize that Koby’s not the only one running the team, as (former GM David Griffin) had done, and that’s why Griff was let go pretty much,” James said.

Cavs front-office officials declined to be quoted for this story but disputed that Altman gave James any indication the trade would not occur. They also said Altman asked James whether he would commit to the Cavs long-term if Irving were not traded, and James said no.

If he didn’t have the authority to keep Irving, Altman shouldn’t have said he would.

Maybe Altman didn’t know he lacked that authority. He was new in the job, after all. So, maybe his error was easily forgivable. But it sounds like an error, nonetheless.

The Cavaliers also didn’t necessarily err by trading Irving. The package they got proved problematic, but the concept of trading the disgruntled star had more merit to the team than LeBron. LeBron lasted only one more season in Cleveland, and it seems likely – though not certain – he would have left even if the Cavs listened to him on Irving. That meant, the Cavaliers could have been left without LeBron and trying to trade Irving in the final year of his contract, when his trade value would have been lower. LeBron might have just wanted to use Irving for one more playoff run then leave Cleveland holding the bag.

The communication issues are a bigger issue. It’s unclear how to divvy blame between Gilbert, Altman and LeBron, but that call ended with those three on different pages. And it doesn’t seem LeBron’s exit has fixed the problem in Cleveland. Since, the Cavs:

Again, it’s unclear whether Gilbert, Altman or others are the problem. But that’s a lot of disarray under Altman, and at a certain point, it’s his responsibility to ensure proper communication is flowing smoothly within the organization.

There are numerous reasons LeBron left for the Lakers. But it’s hard to overlook the Cavaliers’ crummy management in the last year.