Baseline to Baseline recaps: Night of the living upsets

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What you missed while watching Oregon and Wisconsin score another touchdown….

Hawks 100, Heat 92: Miami was zoned out again. The Hawks went to a zone defense a lot starting in the second quarter and it stalled out the Heat, who shot just 37 percent in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Tracy McGrady alone had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the fourth after apparently finding the Fountain of Youth in Florida (Ponce de León is jealous). Atlanta won the fourth quarter by 12 and with it the game.

The Hawks looked like a veteran team who had been through the wars and were not rattled by the Heat’s pressure game. The Hawks, a team known in past years for a stagnant offense, moved well off the ball and created shots, but were patient about it. That and knocking down the open looks slowed the Heat — the game had only 91 possessions, 11 fewer than the Heat averaged in their five wins.

Miami is going to see a lot of zone until they start blowing it up. Sebastain Pruitti of Grantland tweeted the numbers — Miami has 37 points on 50 possessions against the zone this season and are shooting just 38.1 percent against it. They are destroying man defense but struggling against the zone, and word is getting around the league.

Heat fans looking for a positive highlight, there is Dwyane Wade’s block on Vladimir Radmanovic.

Mavericks 100, Thunder 87: The biggest key for Dallas is that Dirk Nowitzki, who has looked like he has been shaking the rust off so far this season, returned  to his old self on the way to 26 points. Then Vince Carter looked good as the hub of the offense, which felt strange. The Thunder looked flat, particularly the bench play, and they got killed on the glass. One game does not a turnaround make, but this is a good start for Dallas.

Raptors 90, Knicks 85: With Amare Stoudemire out, this was the Carmelo Anthony shoot-a-thon and he put up 35 points but needed 31 shots to get there. Neither offense was very efficient, but the Knicks shot just 35 percent for the game (Toney Douglas had 22 points but needed 19 shots). Toronto is working a lot harder on defense for new coach Dwane Casey but they had not seen the results until this game. Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan each had 21 points on just 13 shots. Jose Calderon had a dozen assists. The Raptors are not going to win a lot of games but they are playing teams tough and are improving. Casey deserves a lot of credit for that.

Timberwolves 106, Spurs 96: You’ve heard about Manu Ginobili breaking his hand, but that was not a determining factor in this contest — Minnesota was in control before Manu left. Minnesota was just on fire shooting much of the night — they were 11-19 on long two pointers (16 feet to the arc, the worst shot in basketball) with Wesley Johnson going 4-of-4, and they hit 12-of-21 from three. You’re going to win when those shots fall, it’s just not going to happen consistently.

Pistons 89, Magic 78: This is a schedule makers win — Orlando was playing their fourth game in five nights and just looked tired. It was a slow, slow game (82 possessions) which added to the feeling of everything dragging. The big key here was the Pistons attacked the rim and got to the free throw line 12 more times (11 more points on the night), thanks in large part to Rodney Stuckey who got 10 of his 14 points at the stripe. Ben Gordon had 26 points and he had his shot going from distance to balance everything out.

Suns 102, Warriors 91: Finally the Suns had an efficient game on offense (110.9 points per 100 possessions). Still not playing at the fast pace we hope from the Suns, but at least they were efficient. Steve Nash had 20 points and 9 assists, rookie Markieff Morris added a sweet 16. The Warriors were without David Lee but that was not the issue.

Celtics 100, Wizards 92: Wizards coach Flip Saunders figured out how not to watch this one — he got ejected 1:46 into the game. Washington was in this until a 12-2 run in the fourth gave Boston a lead it would not relinquish, thanks in part to Ray Allen’s 11 points in the quarter (he hit six three-pointers on his way to 27 points for the game). Paul Pierce looked like himself again and had 18. New Boston fan favorite Greg Stiemsma started for the injured Jermaine O’Neal (hamstring) on Monday, and had 13 points on and seven rebounds with a couple of blocks. John Wall did this.

Pacers, 108, Nets 94: Think balance. The Pacers had five players in double figures and they can do that just about every night, which makes them hard to defend. The Pacers had good ball movement and the result was 52.6 percent shooting as a team, a level of efficiency the Nets could not match.

Jazz 94, Hornets 90: Jarrett Jack had a big game for New Orleans with an efficient 27 points, but the key here was getting to the line not just settling for jumpers — Utah took 17 more shots at the rim and had 22 more free throw attempts. Ballgame.

Nuggets 91, Bucks 86: Third night of the dreaded back-to-back-to-back for Denver and yet they seemed the energetic team trying to push the pace, while the Bucks looked like they were coached by Scott Skiles. Al Harrington carried the Nuggets down the stretch — pulling Andrew Bogut away from the rim on offense and then defending him well at the other end — and finished with 17. Note to Brandon Jennings: on your contested long three attempt to tie the game with 10 seconds left, Carlos Delfino was wide open. Just sayin’.

Suns’ GM says there is “overwhelming likelihood” team keeps No. 1 pick

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It takes a rare kind of courage, an extraordinary level of organizational backing, and a special kind of draft to do what Danny Ainge did a year ago trading the No. 1 pick. While a consensus had formed around Markelle Fultz as the best player in the draft, Ainge was a Jayson Tatum guy. Doubts about the top pick are common, but that alone is far from enough to trade that pick away — most GMs don’t have the job security to know if they miss on moving the pick and sliding down they will not be let go. Ainge had that, and he had his confidence in his scouting, so he made the move to trade the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia. (While it looks good now for Ainge, it’s too early to judge how that pick plays out — Fultz has barely played, we don’t know what extra pick the Celtics will get out of this, it takes time to fully judge these kinds of moves.)

This year is different. DeAndre Ayton is more of a clear No. 1, a guy with franchise changing potential. Plus Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough may not be standing on the kind of bedrock that allows for the trade of a No. 1 pick.

Recently McDonough said he’d listen to trade offers for the pick. That’s very different from trading it, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic had the GM saying Friday.

Because they should do their due diligence, the Suns will look at Luka Doncic (who does have a relationship with new coach Igor Kokoskov) and Marvin Bagley III, among others. Rumors may leak, spun by agents or other teams. However, at the end of the day, good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks Phoenix will not take Ayton — who attended college in Arizona — to be the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside. It’s the smart play.

Kokoskov and the Suns have a lot of work to do to build a foundation for success with this franchise. However, that almost never starts by trading away the top pick in the draft.

Rumor: Paul George’s agent telling people client will re-sign with Thunder

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That rumor Paul George will leave the Thunder?

How about the exact opposite?

Dean Blevins of News 9:

Allegedly, apparently, Paul George plans to stay with the Thunder. I know. It’s not what people believe. But in separate conversations, I’m told P.G.’s agent has told people associated with the NBA that P.G. believes the injury loss of Andre Roberson was huge and he’s staying. Disclaimer, though: Believing everything that agents allegedly say can be dangerous to your health.

This, by Blevins’ own admission, isn’t the staunchest reporting. Nonetheless, I appreciate him sharing and contextualizing it. We can evaluate it for what it’s worth.

George is known to share his plans – though the previous example was him planning to sign with the Lakers. And he might have really believed it at the time, when he was still with the Pacers.

But throughout the season, George seemingly went out of his way to profess his affection for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. That only raised expectations in Oklahoma City of George staying, and if he leaves after doing that, he’d be inviting even more backlash. I think he’s smart enough to understand that, which is why I thought he made those especially strong pro-Thunder comments only after deciding he’d likely stay.

On the other hand, even if my assessment was correct, conditions change. The Jazz brutally exposed Oklahoma City’s flaws, and if George re-signs and Anthony opts in, the Thunder will have minimal cap flexibility to upgrade the roster. In fact, they might take a step back with the supporting cast to keep the luxury-tax bill manageable. George could see free agency as his chance to escape that mess.

Roberson was a huge loss, and if George is focused on that, that would bode well for Oklahoma City. Though Roberson was just a role player, he was pivotal to the Thunder’s defense. And his teammates had learned how to play around his offensive shortcomings. Oklahoma City didn’t have any good replacements for him on the roster. Roberson getting healthy is the clearest way for the Thunder to improve next season.

Of course, that’s predicated on George returning, too. Will he?

One last note of caution: People often believe what they want to hear. It’s easy to see someone in Oklahoma City hearing George bemoan the loss of Roberson and elevate that to George planning to re-sign, even George wasn’t going that far.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.