Baseline to Baseline recaps: When good games are overshadowed by the ‘Melodrama

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What you missed while reading the story about Deadspin in GQ

Nets 103, Jazz 95: “Melo? We don’t need no stinkin’ Melo”

In what in some ways seemed like an anti-climactic game, was “Russian Culture” night in New Jersey. That motivated Andrei Kirilenko who came out fast. But once the game settled down this was all Nets for the most part. The Jazz defense let the Nets — the team 28th in the league in offensive efficiency — put up an impressive 117 point per 100 possessions. The Jazz still had some chances at the end but they missed some chippies and the Nets hit theirs. Seven guys for the Nets in double digits.

Magic 99, Sixers 98 (OT): No lead is safe with these Sixers. I mean, when they have it. Dwight Howard fouled out and got a technical with 28 seconds left, and the Sixers were up 5. And the Magic got it to overtime. The Sixers have blown more leads this season than I can count. Once in overtime the Sixers left Jameer Nelson wide open for a three. They fouled J.J. Redick for a four-point play. And they still almost won it — Andre Iguodala had a shot go about as far down as one can and rattle out with five seconds left, Evan Turner hustled and got the offensive board and put up a leaning floater that missed and the Magic escaped with one

Suns 106, Cavaliers 98: With Mo Williams out for a couple weeks, it was Ramon Sessions having to cover Steve Nash. We expected a blowout, but frankly the Suns played down to the level of the competition and got away with it. The Suns started cold in the first part of the fourth quarter and suddenly it was a four point game. But the Suns still had enough talent to win a game they would have lot to 28 other teams. Grant Hill had 27, making this his first back-to-back 25 point games since March 2005.

Vince Carter was ice cold, but he did have the best moment of the night — he was on the sidelines to inbound the ball, reached over and wiped off his hands on Byron Scott’s suit. Scott just laughed.

Celtics 86, Pistons 82: The Celtics had the same disease as the Suns — they played down to the competition. You would have thought they learned their lesson about that when they lost to the Pistons before, but no. Shaquille O’Neal sparked a 9-1 fourth quarter run that led the comeback. There just should not have had to be a comeback.

Bucks 100, Wizards 87: The Bucks offense showed up for this one — they actually got to 100 points and won the home fan free McDonald’s food. That would be three times this season. But getting to 100 points (108.7 points per 100 possessions pace, 8 points above their season average) without Brandon Jennings or John Salmons, and with Andrew Bogut scoring just 6, is a surprise.

Hornets 103, Grizzlies 102 (OT): Emeka Okafor had one assist in this game — a nifty bounce pass through traffic to Marcus Thornton for the game winning reverse layup. Thornton had 17 for the game, all in the fourth quarter and OT. Trevor Ariza, 2-12, must shoot less. The other key to this game, the Hornets defended the Memphis bigs without fouling — the Grizzlies shot just 15 free throws, the Hornets 28.

Rockets 104, Knicks 89: The Rockets controlled this game from the start and afterwards on twitter Rockets GM Daryl Morey explained why: The good defense of Chuck Hayes on Amare Stoudemire (who still had 25 on 11-of-21 shooting) allowed the other Rockets defenders to stay home on the Knicks shooters. The Knicks stayed 1-on-1 with Stoudemire all night, no doubles, no shooters left unguarded. Morey said that is the key to knocking off the Knicks, not to let the other guys beat you.

Mavericks 109, Lakers 100: The Lakers focused their defensive effort on slowing Dirk Nowitzki and all game left Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Sasha Pavlovic open if they took jumpers. In the first half Pavlovic made them pay, in the second half Kidd came alive and the price got steep for LA. I’d say that was the Lakers strategy but really it was just bad rotations. Dallas had an offensive rating of 131 points per 100 possessions in this one.

In the third quarter the Lakers also started settling for jumpers, launching threes, missing and that fueled the Mavs running game. The Lakers can’t run with the Mavs.

Nuggets 112, Thunder 107: Carmelo Anthony had 35 and played like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Can’t imagine why. He took over in the fourth quarter and was the hot player. The crowd still booed him after the game, during the post-game interview. Durant was 1-of-9 shooting in the second half.

Blazers 94, Kings 90 (OT): This game would have fit in well with yesterday’s “sloppy but entertaining” theme. Look at it this way: With 2:30 left and the game tied 83-83 we got a missed Rudy Fernandez three; followed by a missed Omri Casspi three; then LaMarcus Aldridge missed a good-look jump hook in the lane; then Jason Thompson missed 18 footer; that was followed by a sloppy Andre Miller jump pass to Aldridge which ends up a turnover; then Tyreke Evans pushes the pace back the other way, gets into the lane, passes to Jason Thompson who has his a dunk blocked; so the Blazers try to run and Miller misses the layup.

With Marcus Camby out the Kings got into the paint for shots a lot, although not DeMarcus Cousins who played like a rookie.

Spurs 104, Raptors 95: The Spurs joined the list of teams — Celtics, Suns — that played down to the level of the competition and got away with it Wednesday. Manu Ginobili and DeJuan Blair saved them.

Warriors 110, Pacers 108: Monta Ellis is as deadly as anyone in the league if you want a game-winning clutch shot. Beautiful crossover, got to his spot near the elbow, great elevation over Brandon Rush, nothing by nylon. Pretty play to win it. Don’t want to leave out David Lee, who had a key end of game free throw and offensive rebound. Steph Curry had an impressive late layup, but his foul on a Darren Collison jumper that made it a three-point play and tied the game was almost a disaster. Ellis bailed him out.

Clippers 126, Wolves 111: Everyone seemed focused on the Kevin Love/Blake Griffin matchup, and it was pretty good. They both got theirs, Love had his millionth consecutive double-double, Griffin had 29 points and a spectacular dunk. What you really should take away from this — the Clippers have built a really nice core and have the much better team and future right now.

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract

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Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.

 

Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade

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While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers

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The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.