Baseline to Baseline recaps: Maybe the Spurs are going to miss Tony Parker

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What you missed while driving around in reverse

Grizzlies 109, Spurs 93: Memphis has officially taken on the mantel of “the team nobody wants to face in the first round.” They play physically, they have a long front line, they have good athletes on the wing and they can score. Memphis is going to be a tough out.

The Grizzlies were about the worst team for the Spurs to run into with Tony Parker out injured. No team forces more turnovers than the Grizzles (15.6 percent of opponent possessions end in a turnover) and the Spurs without their point guard upped that to 23.1 percent of their possessions. The Spurs struggled to score as well, with no Spur starter in double figures. In fact, Gary Neal’s 14 points led the Spurs, but he needed 13 shots to get that. For Memphis, Tony Allen had 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Timothy Varner of the fantastic Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell made a great point on twitter — when the Spurs are getting crushed in the regular season, they tend to just roll over. It’s like an energy saving defense mechanism, and they did it in this game.

But don’t let that take anything away from a Grizzlies team that has now recently beat the Lakers and Spurs. Nobody wants this team in the first round of the playoffs.

Pacers 109, Warriors 100: The stat that is the difference here — Indiana got to the free throw line 36 times and made 32 while the Warriors got to the stripe half as many times and made 13. A lot of times that leads to fans complaining about the refs, but this was simply a case of one team attacking the rim and getting the ball inside and one settling for jumpers. Indiana had 20 points in the paint, a sign of how they went at the Warriors, and with that drew fouls. Almost always the team with more foul shots was just the aggressive.

Raptors 96, Hornets 90: Jose Calderon owned this game and owned Chris Paul. Yes, you read that right. Calderon had 22 points and 16 assists and down the stretch attacked and got to the rim for buckets, then when the defense focused on him he kicked I out to a wide-open DeMar DeRozan who knocked down the three. Chris Paul on the other hand had a terrible night, couldn’t seem to penetrate or hit shots, and the Hornets offense fell apart.

Mavericks 101, Sixers 93: It’s fitting that a game between the two teams that get the most points out of their bench per game (Philly 40.1, Dallas 39.3) was decided by a bench player. Jason Terry just owned the second half and dropped 17 in the 24 minutes. He pretty much earned the Mavs a win himself.

Magic 116, Knicks 100: Let’s have a hand for our three stars of the game: Jason Phillips, David Jones, and Curtis Blair. Those would be your referees. These teams combined to shoot 97 free throws tonight. Yes, 97. In one game. There were more stops and starts than a baseball game.

Okay, the real story was Jammer Nelson, who put up 23 second half points as the Knicks had no answer for what to do with him coming off the high pick-and-roll. None. That was the ballgame. Or the game when nobody was shooting free throws.

Bucks 92, Pistons 90: Battle of the point guards — Rodney Stuckey had 25, Brandon Jennings 21 — and the Bucks won the kind of game they have to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Rip Hamilton did play, but didn’t impress shooting 4-of-17 as he tried to shake off a lot of rust.

Lakers 90, Timberwolves 79: The Lakers were not on, but even when that goes wrong they are tall and long. And that was too much for the Wolves to handle. Andrew Bynum was defending well, Pau Gasol pulled down 17 boards, Lamar Odom had 12 points and 11 boards. Ugly game but the Lakers will take the ugly win. Oh, and Kevin Love had 13 and 11 to up his double-double streak to 47.

Rockets 103, Trail Blazers 87: The Rockets just owned this game from the second quarter on. Just owned. They got inside (52 points in the paint), they shot well (57.9) percent and we could go on and on but you get the point. This is a couple ugly losses in a row for the Blazers.

Fan runs on court after Laker loss, LeBron stops to take selfie with her

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Even if you can afford the expensive seats that get you close, run on the court after an NBA game and usually security shuts you down. Fast. Try to get to a player and someone — team security, arena security, a police officer — will not-so-politely move you out of the way. (Unless you are Drake, then do whatever you want.)

Even if security is off their game, players ignore everyone on the court, looking to get to the locker room.

Except for LeBron James on Wednesday night in Brooklyn. He stopped for a selfie.

Classy move LeBron. He was clearly frustrated at the end of the Lakers’ loss to Brooklyn, but he made time for the fan.

You can see the security guard start to reach for the phone, then he took his cue from LeBron, stepped back, and let that woman get her new Instagram post/wallpaper/Christmas card/all of the above and more photo.

Three Things to Know: D’Angelo Russell serves his revenge cold hearted against Lakers

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) D’Angelo Russell serves his revenge cold-hearted against Lakers. Do you remember what Magic Johnson said after the Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets?

“We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader.”

Russell remembers. And Tuesday night against the Lakers he played with all the swagger Magic and the Lakers thought he lacked (and we haven’t seen all that consistently in Brooklyn). Russell was every bit a leader. And a scorer. And an assist man. Russell had 22 points, 13 dimes and the Nets got the win, 115-110.

There are two takeaways from this game.

First, the Nets are scrappy and have some talent — they have won six in a row for a reason (with wins over the Raptors, Sixers, and Lakers in there). The streak has revived the question “could the Nets make the playoffs?” They are just 1.5 games out of the eight seed out East. The Nets have done that with an elite offense (117.6 points per 100 possessions in the streak, third best in the NBA) covering up for a still bottom 10 defense. More than that, the Nets are a walking life lesson: Grit and effort will beat out unmotivated talent. Brooklyn is beating teams that look better than them on paper because they want it more and execute better — and that speaks to what coach Kenny Atkinson has built. It speaks to the right culture, one that will thrive as the talent increases.

The second takeaway? The Lakers need JaVale McGee. Which is a weird thing to type, especially considering Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo both missed the game as well. But the reality is the Lakers are thin up front — remember the start of the season when JaVale looked like a defensive force and the Lakers fell apart when he had to sit, meaning Kyle Kuzma or LeBron James had to play center? Then Los Angeles picked up Tyson Chandler and suddenly the Laker defense looked top 10 in the league. McGee has missed the last two games, Laker losses to Washington and Brooklyn, with flu-like symptoms. That moved Chandler into the starting lineup, but when he sits the Lakers are thin again. The Lakers may be 18-13 but they are built on thin margins — LeBron needs to play like an MVP and the Laker depth has to be good enough to support him to win. LeBron had 36 in this game, but in the 6:48 he sat in this game the Lakers were -9 and lost. The depth was not there.

Plus, Jarrett Allen did this to LeBron and became the hero of NBA Twitter for a night.

In the end, Russell made sure he got his revenge, sinking the dagger over Kyle Kuzma — the guy taken with the pick the Lakers received when they sent Russell East.

That’s cold. Just the way Russell wanted to serve it up.

2) Larry Nance Jr. tips in the game-winner and Cleveland stops Indiana’s win streak. The Indiana Pacers had won 7 in a row and came into Tuesday night as hot as any team in the NBA. The Cleveland Cavaliers were scuffling without Kevin Love, Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson.

So what happens? The Pacers seemed to be looking ahead to a showdown with the Raptors Wednesday and came out lifeless. The ball movement and offensive spark that was at the heart of the win streak came to a screeching halt — Indiana shot 39.8 overall and a dreadful 18.2 percent from three. Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans combined to shoot 9-of-36 on the night.

That let the Cavaliers hang around, and then this happened — Larry Nance tipping in the game winner.

Cleveland hasn’t had a lot to celebrate this season, so they did.

If you’re one of the Pacers fans complaining that in wrestling for position to get off the game-winning tip that Nance fouled Oladipo… come on. First, you’re never going to get that call in that situation, the refs are going to let them play. Also, THAT’S NOT WHY THE PACERS LOST. Go rewatch the first 47 minutes of the game. Or, just go re-read the second paragraph of No. 2 of our three things to know. That’s why the Pacers lost.

At least they shouldn’t be tired against Toronto on Wednesday.

3) Denver has won four in a row, leads the West, and Nikola Jokic is getting MVP mentions. What a world. In a West where the Warriors have gotten healthy, it is Denver that is still sitting atop the West and riding a four-game win streak — over Memphis, Oklahoma City, Toronto, and now Dallas — despite a rash of injuries robbing them of their depth.

After Tuesday night’s win over Dallas, Denver has won four in a row and is 21-9 on the season. How? At the heart of the matter is the big man playing at an All-NBA level who is getting some fringe MVP buzz — Nikola Jokic. He had 32.

Denver is legit people. In a West where we have no idea which team will come out of the pack and take on the Warriors next May in the conference finals, Denver has a real shot at it. They have the star player in Jokic, a good supporting cast, the fourth best defense and the seventh best offense in the league. It will come down to health and matchups in the West in the end, but Denver has as good a shot as anyone to dance with the Warriors in May.

Report: Bucks will do everything they can to keep Khris Middleton

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Milwaukee Bucks star Khris Middleton has been the subject of much discussion around the NBA, both as a potential trade target and as a free agent signing in the summer of 2019. Middleton is a crucial part of a Milwaukee lineup that needs his presence on the wing, and externally there appears to be some pressure on the Bucks to win this season with some uncertainty surrounding Middleton return next year.

Middleton has a player option for next season, and Eric Bledsoe is also in need of a new deal. However, thanks to the contracts of Giannis Antetokounmpo, George Hill, and Tony Snell, it’s going to take some fancy to financial footwork for Milwaukee to keep both of their star guards.

Still, the smart thing for the Bucks to do would be to re-sign Middleton if they can and keep this core together. Milwaukee should want to avoid a backslide into the years prior, where mediocre talent surrounded a rising Antetokounmpo.

According to a new report from Yahoo Sports, at least one Bucks official says they are going to try to do everything they can to keep Middleton in Wisconsin.

Via Yahoo:

The Bucks feel Middleton can fill that role and should he opt out to hit free agency, a Bucks official told Yahoo Sports: “We’re gonna do everything we can to keep him.”

That quote doesn’t necessarily mean that Milwaukee is going to stretch past a financial limit they set for themselves to sign Middleton. “Everything they can” might be going up to a certain limit and trying to convince Middleton to take the deal in order to build something in Milwaukee.

Middleton will have plenty of suitors, and many expect teams like the Los Angeles Lakers will come calling with big offers this summer. For now the Bucks remain one of the best teams in the NBA and have the second best record in the Eastern Conference, and Middleton is a crucial reason why.

Larry Nance has buzzer-beating tip-in to beat Pacers (VIDEO)

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are not a good basketball team. Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James’ former squad had just seven wins.

Enter Larry Nance.

Where’s the Cavaliers down by one point with nine seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Rodney Hood took it upon himself to take what he thought would be the last shot for Cleveland. Hood danced around the defense before finally taking a jumper from the free-throw line, which bounced softly off the rim.

Nance, battling down low for the rebound, worked his way free for a tip-in as time expired.

Via Twitter:

There’s not much to cheer for in Cleveland this season but that’s a fun way to win a basketball game.