Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Spurs remain kings of end game execution

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Carmelo Anthony’s debut as a Knick was our game of the night.

Spurs 109, Thunder 105: Fantastic effort by the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, but it’s the little things in these games. Like Gary Neal stepping back to take a three in transition that was a bad decision but he knocked it down. Or Jeff Green shooting (and airballing) a contested three with 5 seconds left in the game and the chance to tie when the play wasn’t designed for him. The Spurs still are executing better in the clutch than anyone in the West.

Sixers 117, Wizards 94: Philly outscored Washington by 31 in the second and third quarters combined. It was a balanced Sixers attack with seven guys in double figures and nobody scoring more than 20 (Jrue Holiday). Rashard Lewis was terrible, he missed both of the shots he took and had 1 point in 12 minutes.

Pacers 102, Pistons 101: Fun finish to this one. Austin Daye put the Pistons up one with 11 seconds to go when he drove left and hit a 15-footer along the baseline over Danny Granger. Then Granger countered trying to work the right side but finding nothing. Brandon Rush had set up at the three point line on the weak side as an outlet but he dove to the basket, his man lost him but Granger found him and Rush had a dunk to give the Pacers the lead with five seconds left. That was enough time for Rodney Stuckey to get the ball out top, drive hard right, get into the lane, pull up and… try to pass. There were Pistons under the basket but they had turned their back to get the rebound because you shoot in that situation. Stuckey didn’t, he tried to pass. Ball out of bounds, Pacers win.

Rockets 124, Cavaliers 119: Down the stretch of a close game the athleticism inside of Chase Budinger was too much for Cleveland. Budinger dropped 30 and had key buckets late. It’s just one of the challenges for the Cavs, they do not have the athletes to hang with guys like Budinger

Raptors 118, Bulls 113: The Bulls had an off defensive night as a team. Toronto has some guys who can score the rock — they shot 58 percent as a team and DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani each had 24 — but the Bulls defense was bad. On a key late possession where the Bulls needed a stop the Raptors went right at Carlos Boozer with Amir Johnson and Johnson abused him to seal the game (Johnson was 8-of-8 on the night). When the games get serious in the playoffs you’re going to see teams go at him.

Kings 111, Magic 105: The Sacramento Kings out executed the Magic down the stretch. That is the same Kings team on the second night of a back-to-back that got thumped by the Heat Tuesday. The Kings shot 11-of-17 in the fourth quarter and were often getting open looks. They got some bounces, they got some calls, but those things often go to the aggressor. The Magic in the fourth quarter shot 4-of-16 at one point. There are some issues in Orlando. Potentially big issues.

Grizzlies 104, Timberwolves 95: The Grizzlies defense held the Timberwolves to 37 percent shooting on the night and that was the ball game. This one was just not a thing of beauty to watch.

Mavericks 118, Jazz 95: With everything that happened in Utah Wednesday, how did you expect this to turn out?

Suns 105, Hawks 97: A shorthanded Hawks team after the trade got to see first hand how a good point guard can control the game. No, we’re not talking Jeff Teague, either.

Hornets 97, Clipper 88: The Clippers had 23 turnovers, which was 22.8 percent of their possessions. You cannot give Chris Paul extra chances like that, you will pay. CP3 had 19 points, 10 assists.

Lakers 106, Trail Blazers 101 (OT): This is a good win for the Lakers — the Rose Garden is this team’s house of horrors for the. And Portland was up by 8 with four minutes to go. Ron Artest was key for the Lakers with 24 points and he had maybe is best game of the season… actually, no maybe about it. Kobe Bryant took over in overtime. Of course he did.

James Harden reiterates it was “false talk” he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.

Report: R.C. Buford moving on from Spurs GM role, Brian Wright taking over

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For 15 years, through championships and an unparalleled run of playoff berths and success, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich seemed to work as one brain. Popovich was the coach but also team president, Buford the GM, and together they built an NBA powerhouse.

Buford is moving on from that role. Or, more precisely moving up into a new management role, and assistant GM Brian Wright is taking over as GM, reports Jabari Young of The Athletic.

After a little more than 15 years serving as GM, Buford is getting prepared to bequeath the role to assistant GM Brian Wright, league sources have confirmed to The Athletic. Wright will report directly to Buford, who will officially get a new title that some around the NBA believe will be a role helping to oversee Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

When the Spurs initially hired Wright in 2016, he stayed behind the scenes and focused mainly on scouting. But sources have informed The Athletic over the last year Wright has been more involved, even fielding calls and packages for the trade of Kawhi Leonard the previous summer.

Wright came to the Spurs from the Pistons a couple of years ago. That said, don’t expect a big change in how things are done in the Spurs front office. For one thing, Popovich is still there. Also, Wright has an excellent reputation around the league as being smart and a straight shooter. On top of all of that, Buford will remain his ultimate boss, although Buford’s role will change into one of more of a business manager for Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

Young hints there could be more changes coming. Obviously, the biggest would be when Popovich decides to step back in his dual roles as coach and president, but there could be shifts in the assistant GM ranks as well.

Just don’t expect the Spurs to stop being the Spurs.