Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs get top seed, Heat slip back

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What you missed while barking at a police dog….

Bucks 90, Heat 85: No Dwyane Wade in this one due to his thigh bruise, and the Heat are now 3-2 when he sits. It didn’t help that Chris Bosh floated around the perimeter this game (except during the Heat’s one fourth quarter run, not so coincidentally) and LeBron’s shot was not sharp (10-of-22). The Bucks offense was better for a night with some nice ball movement. Where has that been all season?

Magic 111, Charlotte 102 (OT): If it hadn’t been for a 19-4 fourth-quarter run sparked by the Magic bench, they would have joined the ranks of the upset tonight. Orlando started the overtime on a 9-0 run and that was it. Not a good defensive effort from either team here. Charlotte is out of the playoff hunt now; the Pacers are the eight seed.

Knicks 97, Sixers 92: Big win for the Knicks as this moves them back into the six spot in the East (meaning likely Miami in the first round, if the Knicks can hold on). Carmelo Anthony had 31 in this game, which is what he has averaged on the Knicks five-game winning streak.

Warriors 95, Lakers 87: Two consecutive Lakers losses to non-playoff teams — that means time to panic in Los Angeles. (Not really, but some fans will.) The Lakers put up a sad offensive rating of 94.6, they were not moving without the ball, and Lakers not named Bryant or Gasol shot just 34.8 percent (Bryant and Gasol shot 54.8 percent together). The Lakers turned the ball over 17 times and the Warriors had 18 rebounds. Golden State also got a combined 68 points out of Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee.

Spurs 124, Kings 92: This win clinched the top seed in the West for the Spurs — and they did it with offense. Which is fitting as that is how they got the top seed. This game was close at the half but the Spurs shot 61 percent in the second half, and George Hill’s 12 third quarter points helped that along. Expect the Spurs to start cutting back the minutes of their stars now (if not have them sit entire games).

Nuggets 104, Mavericks 96: Tuesday, J.R. Smith sat on the bench during the key moments of a close game, and Denver lost. Wednesday he played and took over the end of this game. He had two threes and a driving layup as part of a late 10-0 Nugget run to seal the win. There was also a Sean Marion sighting — 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting plus 10 boards.

Pacers 136, Wizards 112: Blistering pace — 106 possessions — and it felt like the 1980s again. Well, the 1980s games where nobody played no defense, anyway. The Wizards transition… no, really all of their defense was weak. The Pacers shot 59.5 percent, got out to a 14 point lead after one quarter and ran away and hid.

Pistons 116, Nets 109: This game was not televised, anywhere, so we’re not convinced it actually happened. The whole “if a tree fell in the forest…” thing. (Why no television? The YES Network chose to show the Yankee game, and Fox Sports went with the Twins.)

Cavaliers 104, Raptors 96: With this move Cleveland moves half a game ahead of Minnesota for the worst record in the NBA. Cleveland is out of the cellar and has won two straight. Which leads to the question: What are they doing? If ever you were going to tank for the lottery, this might have been the time. Whatever.

Our own John Krolic had the best line about this game at his Cavs blog, saying the Raptors are “peacefully protesting defense.” Yet, somehow there are reports that coach Jay Triano may be safe at the end of the season. This is two years in a row with the worst defense in the NBA, folks.

Hornets 101, Rockets 93: This loss does not mathematically remove the Rockets from playoff consideration, but for all practical purposes it does. Kyle Lowry has been awesome lately, really fantastic, but Chris Paul reminded him what the best point guard in the game can look like. Big night for the Hornets’ backup point guard Jarrett Jack off the bench, too.

Suns 108, Timberwolves 98: Largely a battle of the benches since neither team is playoff bound. Phoenix has the better one.

Thunder 112, Clippers 108: The Clippers will not just roll over and die, they shot 50.6 percent and hit 6-13 threes (although some of that was due to lackadaisical defense from the Thunder). That meant the Thunder never quite put the Clippers away (the largest lead was 12) but they also never trailed in the second half, and the game never felt in doubt. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were a combined 19-for-45.

Kyrie Irving: I apologized to LeBron James

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Celtics star Kyrie Irving slammed his younger teammates for not understanding how to win a championship.

Which ironically made Irving sound a lot like LeBron James talking about Irving early in their time together with the Cavaliers.

Irving sometimes disliked LeBron’s leadership back then. Similarly, Irving’s comments didn’t go over well in Boston, especially with Jaylen Brown.

But apparently Irving realized how he fit both sides of the situation and addressed it, including with LeBron himself.

Jay King of The Athletic:

Irving, via NBC Sports Boston:

I’ll tell you one thing, and obviously this is something that it was a big deal for me because I had to call Bron and tell him, “I apologize for being that young player that wanted to everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything to be at my threshold. I wanted to be the guy that led us to championships. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that.”

And the responsibility of being the best player in the world and leading a team is something that’s not meant for many people. And Bron was one of those guys that came to Cleveland and tried to really show us what it’s like to win a championship. And it was hard for him. And sometimes getting the most out of the group, it’s not the easiest thing in the world.

And like I said, only few are meant for it or chosen for it. And I felt like the best person to call was him, because he’s been in this situation.

He’s been there with me, where I’ve been the young guy of being the 22-year-old kid and wanting everything. Wanting everything right now. Coming off an All-Star year starting then this heck of a presence comes back, and now I got to adjust my game to this guy. And you take it personal, but at the end of the day, he just wants what’s best. He has a legacy he wants to leave, and he has a window he wants to capture.

So, I think what that brought me back to was, alright, how do I get the best out of this group, of the success they had last year, and then helping them realize what it takes to win a championship.

It takes a real man to go back and call somebody and be like, “Hey, man, I was young. I made some mistakes. I wasn’t really seeing the big picture like you were. I didn’t have the end of the season in mind. I just wanted to get my stats and make All-Star games. In his career, it means like this much [holds fingers close together] at that point.

So, it was just good. It gave me peace of mind, too, to go about what I’ve got to go do.

Kudos to Irving for his self-realization. Few people recognize their hypocrisy.

And kudos to Irving for immediately making amends – both toward his younger teammates and LeBron.

Learning how to win at the highest levels is extremely hard. Irving did it.

Teaching someone else how to win at the highest levels might be even more difficult. Irving isn’t there yet.

To his credit, Irving took a lot of grief while playing with LeBron and worked through it. LeBron’s leadership style isn’t for everyone. LeBron gets away with insensitive criticism of his own teammates and coaches, because he’s such a great player, and it’s generally believed he knows best, anyway.

As excellent as he is, Irving doesn’t have that same cachet as a leader. He can’t just follow the LeBron model.

Irving also might not have young teammates as willing to persevere through the negatives of following a LeBron-like leader and internalize the lessons as Irving was.

That said, even Irving tired of it, as he requested a trade from Cleveland.

I wonder whether Irving regrets that now. If he understood LeBron’s burden with young teammates sooner, would Irving have stayed with the Cavs?

Maybe Irving just wanted the leadership role himself, regardless. He has it now in Boston.

Now, he must find a leadership style that works after identifying one that doesn’t.

James Harden scores 58, but Nets beat Rockets

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James Harden and the Rockets reshaped how NBA games look.

Now, they’re pushing the boundaries even further.

Harden scored 58 points tonight, just the second time someone has had consecutive 50-point games in the last decade (joining Harden in 2017). Houston went 23-of-70 on 3-pointers, demolishing the previous single-game 3-point attempts record of 61 (set by Houston in 2016).

Meanwhile, the Nets are simply winning.

Brooklyn beat Houston 145-142 in overtime tonight. The Nets are 15-5 in their last 20 games, and they showed plenty of fight to get this latest victory.

They trailed by 14 with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. They trailed by seven with 1:20 left in overtime. But Spencer Dinwiddie hit overtime-forcing 3-pointer then put Brooklyn up late in overtime with an old-fashioned three-point play.

Dinwiddie finished with 33 points, and Jarrett Allen had 20 points, 24 rebounds and three blocks – including a nice, poetic one of Harden:

Report: Lakers management still supporting Luke Walton as coach through rest of season

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Lakers president Magic Johnson said he wouldn’t fire Luke Walton during the season “unless something drastic happens, which it won’t.”

Does a 4-7 stretch (most of those games without LeBron James) qualify as drastic? Nope.

What about following that with a 2-2 stretching including an ugly loss to the Cavaliers? Apparently not.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Lakers management continues to project support for Walton publicly and privately — at least through this season, multiple sources told ESPN.

Walton might not be coaching to keep his job the rest of the season. But he’s almost certainly coaching to retain it for next season.

Johnson inherited, rather than hired, Walton. The new boss apparently hasn’t been impressed with his coach. As long as Johnson’s support seems so tepid and the Lakers keep losing, it will be worth continuing to evaluate Walton’s status.

LeBron getting healthy will go a long way. He can cover for this otherwise-deficient roster and make Walton look better.

But, in the meantime, Walton must avoid catastrophe to keep his job. So far, so good.

Report: Warriors project at least $100 million revenue increase with new arena next season

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The Warriors’ player costs this season are in line to be about $195 million (about $145 million in salary, about $50 million in luxury tax).

If they re-sign Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to max salaries, keep everyone under contract, sign their own draft picks and fill the rest of their roster with minimum-salary free agents, the Warriors’ spending on players next season would project to hit about $355 million (about $173 million in salary, about $182 million in luxury tax).

But maybe Golden State can afford it.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Internally, the Warriors project a nine-figure increase in revenue when they move into the Chase Center next season, sources said.

The Warriors already make so much money on their home games. That’s a whopping increase – one that could alone increase the league-wide salary cap a couple million dollars.

But this figure doesn’t say how much more money will reach Golden State ownership. Revenue differs from profit. The Warriors could have greater expenses, including revenue-sharing obligations, in their new arena.

Still, it’s hard to imagine this won’t be a windfall for the Golden State, one that could go a long way not just in affording stars but also keeping complementary players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

The salary cap promotes competitive balance. But big-spending teams still have an advantage.