Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where the Knicks try but the Heat outclass them

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What you missed while watching Tuesday night NFL football

The Spurs taking care of the Lakers was our game of the night.

Heat 106, Knicks 98: The Heat jumped out early because of… Zydrunas Ilgauskas? Well of course, who did you expect? Big Z had 12 points and 9 boards in the first quarter as he took advantage of the soft, doughy middle of the Knicks defense. The Heat also got back to running in the first quarter and that fueled them getting up by 22 — and they got to run because the Knicks settled (11 of first 26 Knicks shots were threes). The Heat did slow the pace as the game went on.

But credit these Knicks — they fight back. They made a couple second half runs including a late 10-2 spurt that made it close at the end. But the Knicks were just outclassed.

Celtics 95, Pacers 83: Boston’s bench won this one. The Celtics were down 10 late in the third quarter when some great play from Marquis Daniels, exploiting T.J. Ford, as well as buckets from Ray Allen, Glen Davis and even Von Wafer. Pretty soon (early in the fourth) the Celtics were up 10 and it was all but over.

By the way, apparently the problem wasn’t just the refs on Christmas Day – the ones Shaq got fined for ripping — because O’Neal fouled out again, this time in just 16 minutes. He’s doing a very good Tomofey Mozgov impression lately.

Magic 110, Cavaliers 95: Cleveland hung in early because it got six shots at the rim in the first 10 minutes — the vaunted Magic defense was missing. It showed up. Meanwhile the Magic hit 19 of 31 from three — led by Gilbert Arenas shooting 5 of 8 from deep — and when they can work inside-out like that they are very hard to beat.

Bulls 90, Bucks 77: Ahh, now that’s the Bucks offense we remember from the first month of the season, shooting 32 percent. The Bulls defense is good but they got help in this one. Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer had 24 a piece.

Raptors: 84, Mavericks 76: Dallas on the second night of a back-to-back without Dirk Nowitzki? Probably should have seen this coming. Credit the Raptors for doing enough to win but this was just one of those games for Dallas.

Nuggets 95, Blazers 77: Denver made a point of trying to control the paint on both ends — particularly on offense early. Which worked pretty well, as you can see by the final score.

Tacko Fall’s agent confident if Celtics don’t keep him on roster another team will

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Tacko Fall was arguably the most popular player at Las Vegas Summer League (especially since Zion Williamson only played nine minutes). Fans chanted for him to get in games and then chanted “M-V-P” once he was in. Fall averaged 7.2 points a game on 77 percent shooting at Summer League and every play he made became a viral highlight.

But that was Summer League.

Now things are getting real and Fall is trying to make the Celtics’ roster. Fall signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics, which is essentially a training camp invite.

It’s a longshot Fall makes the Celtics’ regular season roster for two reasons. First, Fall needs a lot more development to be NBA ready, both physically and in terms of understanding and reacting to the game and how fast it moves. That was evident in Las Vegas. Second, the Celtics have Enes Kanter starting at center with Daniel Theis and Robert Williams behind him, it’s unlikely they keep a fourth traditional center on the roster. Both of Boston’s two-way contracts are already filled.

If the Celtics cut Fall and he signs with Boston’s G-League affiliate the Maine Red Claws, Fall gets a $50,000 bonus.

However, Fall’s agent Justin Haynes says if Boston cuts Fall he believes another team will sign him, something Haynes told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe.

“If the Celtics release him, I don’t think he goes unclaimed,” said Haynes, Fall’s agent. “I think somebody will take a shot on him because he’s done enough to show he can find a place in the NBA. I’m really hopeful that it’s Boston. I hope they find a way, and they do have a vision for him.”

I could see another team giving Fall one of their two-way contracts, but he needs a lot more development and time on the court. He needs time in the G-League. Maybe a team gives him a roster spot and develops him there, but that seems unlikely. Fall has the potential to be an NBA player, but it’s going to take a lot of work for him to get there.

Work that this year likely will take place in the G-League.

Gregg Popovich shows off some handles, and a midrange game (VIDEO)

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This is where you insert your “if one more player drops from USA Basketball” joke…

Team USA has flown to Australia for a series of FIBA World Cup tuneup games — two against Australia, one against Canada — and they are practicing there for a few days prior to those games. At one of those practices, USA (and Spurs) coach Gregg Popovich showed off a little behind-the-back dribble and midrange game, and Donovan Mitchell caught it on his camera and posted it.

Just as a reminder, Pop did play. Never in the NBA, but he was one of the last cuts of the 1972 USA Olympic team.

That said, I think the coaching gig worked out pretty well for him.

Team USA will play Australia on Aug. 22 and 24, then face Canada on Aug. 26. From there the USA flies to China where its first game is Sept. 1 against the Czech Republic.

Atlanta Hawks promote, extend contract of GM Travis Schlenk

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Trae Young. John Collins. Kevin Huerter. De’Andre Hunter. Cam Reddish.

The Atlanta Hawks have quietly built one of the more intriguing young teams in the NBA the past couple of years, trading up and down in the draft to compile a young roster with a lot of potential. They moved on from Mike Budenholzer (he landed on his feet just fine, thanks) and brought in player development specialist in Llyod Pierce as coach. All that has yet to translate to a lot of wins, but it will — the trajectory of the Hawks is going to take off like a rocket.

Travis Schlenk, the Hawks general manager and architect of all of it, earned the contract extension and new title he was given, something announced by the team on Monday. Schlenk is now Atlanta’s President of Basketball Operations and General Manager.

“We are extremely pleased with the direction that Travis and our entire basketball operations team has us heading as a franchise. He has used the draft to build an impressive young core, hired one of the NBA’s top young coaches in Lloyd Pierce and positioned us to have the cap space, draft picks and financial flexibility needed to have long-term success in the NBA,” Hawks Principal Owner Tony Ressler said in a statement announcing the move.

Schlenk had been an assistant GM in Golden State before coming to Atlanta, and also had spent time in the Miami and Orlando organizations. He’s been in the NBA front office game for a couple of decades.

This is a smart decision by the Hawks. When things are going well, when you have good people in place, keep them there and get ownership out of the way. Let the basketball people do their jobs. Atlanta has figured that out.

The Hawks won 24 games during Schlenk’s first year and 29 last season, but expect that number to jump as the young talent on this roster continues to mature and get added to.

NBA’s Steph Curry helps Howard U. start Division I golf team

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WASHINGTON (AP) Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry is helping Howard University launch a Division I golf program.

The Golden State Warriors star guard and the school announced the six-year partnership Monday.

The specifics of his contribution were not disclosed.

Howard officials say they plan to have women’s and men’s golf teams for the 2020-21 academic year.

The school had a Division II golf program in the past, along with intercollegiate and intramural club teams.

The 31-year-old Curry, who has won three NBA championships with the Warriors, says he decided to get involved after meeting a Howard student who had been trying to get the university to have a golf team.

Curry says “it’s tough” to hear about students “who have the talent but don’t have a fair shot at the game.”