Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Bobcats and Knicks have the same record

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What you missed while watching West Virginia score more first half points than 15 the NBA teams playing last night (seriously)….

Bobcats 118, Knicks 110: Boris Diaw outplayed Amare Stoudemire. Gerald Henderson took it to Landry Fields at every turn. The Charlotte Bobcats outworked a Knicks team that has a lot of talent but looks rudderless on offense and still doesn’t play much defense (Charlotte shot 55 percent as a team and basically did whatever it wanted on offense).

Frankly I mocked the Baron Davis signing — and I’m still not president of his fan club  — but the Knicks need him. New York needs a point guard in the worst way. Iman Shumpert returned from injury with 18 points, but he is not the answer right now. Despite the chants of MSG faithful.

Diaw had 27 points on 15 shots and Henderson had 24 on 13 shots. When the Knicks tried to make a charge in the fourth — behind Carmelo Anthony’s 20 fourth-quarter points — it was Henderson who knocked down the key threes to keep the game out of reach for NYC. The Knicks closeouts on jump shooters are lazy and it killed them in this game. Their lack of defense in general killed them.

Just for the record, both Charlotte and New York are now 2-4.

Nuggets 110, Kings 83: No Nene and it didn’t matter for Denver as they hit 60.5 percent of their shots and had a balanced attack (Al Harrington’s 15 points led the Nuggets). Looking for a bright spot, Kings fans? That would be DeMarcus Cousins with a game-high 26 for Sacramento.

This game gave us the play of the night.

Bulls 99, Pistons, 83: Richard Hamilton was back in the lineup, back in Detroit, and he ended up being key to this game. Not really the 14 points he had (which were nice) but how he set up the offense early. The Pistons know Rip and they were not going to let him catch-and-shoot coming off picks, they overplayed him. So he had four early assists hitting the open man inside. From there, the Bulls offense flowed. Carlos Boozer led the way with 19.

Raptors 92, Cavaliers 77: Andrea Bargnani had one of those mirage games where he looks like the kind of guy you could build a franchise around, as he knocked down everything on his way to 31 points. It won’t last, we all know it, but on these nights he looks special. Also out of the ordinary, DeMar DeRozan with five threes. Cleveland was on the second game of a back-to-back and they just looked tired, shooting 29.6 percent for the game. Kyrie Irving got smacked around by the reality of the NBA — it’s hard to do this every night.

Magic 103, Wizards 85: Orlando raced out to a 12-0 lead in this one and, well, what else do you really need to know? Dwight Howard had 28 points, 20 rebounds, Ryan Anderson had 23 points and 15 rebounds. The Wizards are bad.

Celtics 89, Nets 70: Boston has an amazing ability to play down to the level of its opponents. New Jersey led at the half 35-34 in a game they were playing without Deron Williams, Kris Humphries or Brook Lopez. Paul Pierce had 11 points in the third quarter (24 for the game) and the Celtics pulled away in the final 24. Brandon Bass had 15 points, 13 rebounds.

Heat 118, Pacers 83: The 4-1 Pacers get their first test against an elite team and… ugh. Miami was up 62-39 at the half, and LeBron James already had 14 of the 33 he would get before he rolled his ankle. This was the Cleveland-era LeBron that did it all and carried his team. Chris Bosh finished the game with 22. Indiana shot just 34.8 percent for the night, and we’ll find in the coming days if that is the pattern against the elite teams or if this was just an off night.

76ers 101, Hornets 93: This game was close through three quarters, then it became the Jrue Holiday show. He had 14 in the fourth quarter to help the Sixers finish the five-game road trip they had to open the season at 3-2. Not bad, not bad at all. Evan Turner had 21 and may be finding his groove. New Orleans has got to find a way to close out games, they just seem to fold late.

Grizzlies 90, Timberwolves 86: Memphis is now 2-0 without Zach Randolph, and that is huge for a team trying to trying to stay in position to make the playoffs. They can thank Tony Allen, who had 20 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting (including four threes) to spark the offense. Kevin Love had 27 and 14, because that is what he does. Ricky Rubio also did his thing.

Spurs 101, Warriors 95: This is the kind of game the Spurs need to win with Manu Ginobili out if they intend to make the playoffs. Golden State had the lead in the fourth until a 15-2 run sparked by Tim Duncan and the bench play of T.J. Ford and Danny Green. Oh, and Monta Ellis who had 38. The Warriors had their chances, but Kwame Brown missed four late free throws.

Mavericks 98, Suns 89: Phoenix focused their defense to take the ball out of Dirk Nowitzki’s hands — he had 20 points anyway — but it was his early passing to set up teammates when the double came that was key. The Mavericks ball movement was fantastic. So was their rebounding — 18 offensive rebound was key here. Lamar Odom had his first good game as a Maverick with 15 points. Marcin Gortat had 22 for the Suns.

Clippers 117, Rockets 89: The Clippers caught the Rockets on the second game of a back-to-back, got Chauncey Billups back and all of it together was too much for Houston. The Clippers pulled away early and never looked back. Blake Griffin had 22, Chris Paul 20 and most of the fourth quarter was garbage time.

Giannis Antetokounmpo joined protesters, spoke in Milwaukee, “We want justice”

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Saturday protestors filled the streets from Los Angeles to New York and countless cities in between, speaking out against racial injustice, police brutality, and the systemic racism in our nation. All of it sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, but the movement has gotten much bigger than that, and the voices have gotten louder.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was one of those voices.

The NBA’s reigning MVP joined Bucks’ teammates — Sterling Brown, Donte DiVincenzo, Brook Lopez, Frank Mason II, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo — in taking part in the protest. Giannis also spoke to the crowd.

“We want change, we want justice, and that’s why we’re out here. That’s what we’re going to do today. That’s why I’m going to march with you. I want my kid to grow up here in Milwaukee, and not to be scared to walk in the streets. I don’t want my kid to have hate in his heart.”

Sterling Brown’s participation is fitting. In 2018, Brown was surrounded by a group of Milwaukee police officers following a parking violation at a Walgreens, he was taken to the ground and tased by the officers, then arrested. That incident and Brown’s willingness to fight it has led to a firing and suspensions of some officers. Recently, Brown rejected a $400,000 settlement offer from the city.

Brown has been a public face in Milwaukee for what protestors across the nation were trying to say on Saturday.

Timberwolves head into offseason in need of healing, with big decisions looming

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Another season of setback and tumult has mercifully ended for the Minnesota Timberwolves, this time in the strangest of ways after the NBA’s decision to resume virus-halted play with 22 teams.

The revelation of the makeshift plan immediately put the Timberwolves, who finished 19-45 for the third-worst record in the league, in offseason mode after nearly three months in limbo while the world wrestled with the COVID-19 pandemic and all NBA arenas went dark.

There was no arguing from Minnesota, where the 18 games remaining on the original schedule before the shutdown would have had little benefit as long as star center Karl-Anthony Towns was sidelined with a wrist injury.

“While we are disappointed for our team and our fans that our season is coming to an end, we understand and accept the league’s plan to move forward with 22 teams. It is important that we be a good teammate not only to the NBA, but to the other 29 teams to support the efforts to complete this season and prepare for next season in a healthy and safe manner,” president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said on Thursday after the league’s announcement.

Whether due to injuries or trades, the repeated disruptions during the season made the assessment of 34-year-old head coach Ryan Saunders difficult. First-timers aren’t typically hired without at least some commitment from the franchise to patience, but the Wolves are 36-70 under Saunders since he replaced the fired Tom Thibodeau halfway through the 2018-19 season. No NBA jobs are ever guaranteed.

Rosas, in his season-ending statement distributed by the team, appeared to apply some pressure on what will be for the Timberwolves a critical summer – and fall, since the draft has been pushed back to Oct. 15. Rosas promised an “intensive and thorough” program to help make up for the time lost to the shutdown. He also said Saunders and the rest of the staff would be “creative, aggressive and proactive” in approaching team building and player development in the meantime.

Here are some other key angles to follow as the offseason unfolds:

HEALING FIRST: Before the Timberwolves embark on the free agency and trading period, and enter the draft with two first-round selections, they could use some time simply for healing.

The city of Minneapolis became the epicenter for a nationwide wave of protest, anger and destruction after the death on May 25 of George Floyd, the black man who was handcuffed and pinned to the street by a white police officer who pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck until and after he stopped breathing. Since then, Saunders and guard Josh Okogie have been particularly outspoken on the issue of racial justice, and they joined on Friday a group spearheaded by Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph to distribute essential goods to community members in need in front of a grocery store that was vandalized, looted and burned last week during the worst of the violence.

All this came after the organization was mourning the loss Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, the mother of Towns who died of complications from COVID-19 on April 13.

WHEELING AND DEALING: Rosas proved in his first year on the job that he could swiftly and thoroughly change the roster, making four trades in the span of less than a month that fetched nine new players and dealt nine others elsewhere, not to mention the draft picks that swapped hands. That was more than half of the roster. The linchpin of the early February activity was D'Angelo Russell, who was acquired in a deal with Golden State that sent former cornerstone Andrew Wiggins packing.

BETTER WITH BEASLEY?: The pairing of Towns and Russell gave Rosas the potential star duo he sought. Shooting guard Malik Beasley was another key acquisition during the flurry of activity, should the Timberwolves decide to keep him. The 23-year-old averaged 20.7 points in 14 games.

“We’re big fans of Malik. We tried hard. We paid a very, very strong premium to get him here in Minnesota, but we’re excited,” Rosas said.

WHAT’S NEXT: There are six players on the roster whose contracts are set to expire, with Beasley, power forward Juancho Hernangomez and power forward James Johnson the most notable.

Johnson, who at 33 is the oldest on the team, had a productive 14-game stretch after arriving from Miami during the trading spree. He has a player option he can exercise for about $16 million next season. Hernangomez, who is only 24, will be an unrestricted free agent. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound native of Spain averaged 12.9 points in 14 games with the Wolves, after coming with Beasley in the deal with Denver.

Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu not expected to be back for Magic when games restart

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Jonathan Isaac was having a breakout season for Orlando. He had become a go-to defensive stopper for the Magic, a long, athletic, switchable defender averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals a game. He was going to get All-Defensive team votes this season and looked like a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate. (On offense he’s averaged 12 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, both career bests, but he is still a project.)

He hyperextended his knee and suffered a bone bruise in January, but it looks like neither he nor veteran Al-Farouq Aminu (torn meniscus) will be on the court for the Magic when games restart in July, reports Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

Injured forwards Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) most likely will not be healthy enough to return…

“Not a whole lot of news there,” [Magic president of basketball operations Jeff] Weltman said when asked about the possibility of Isaac or Aminu returning. “As always, we’re going to wait and see how they respond to rehab. They’re both working very hard.

“There’s a difference of being healthy and then being safely healthy. It will have been a long, long time since those guys played and you know organizationally that we’re never going to put our guys in a position where they’re exposed to any sort of risk of injury. So that being said, we’ll just continue to see how they progress.”

Put plainly, the risk is not worth the reward. Isaac is a key part of what the Magic want to build in the future and they do not want to push him too hard to return for this handful of games.

Come July, the Magic will head down the street to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando as the eighth seed in the East with a 5.5 game lead over the ninth-seeded Wizards (who will not have John Wall back). If Washington can close that gap to four games or fewer during the eight “seeding games,” then there will be a two-game play-in series between the teams, with the Magic just needing to win one of the two to advance (assuming they are still the eight seed).

After that, it’s on to the first round of the playoffs and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Isaac’s defense would be helpful against Bradley Beal and/or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Magic are thinking bigger picture.

Winning percentage will determine final seedings in NBA restart; regular tiebreakers used

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Heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando, the Trail Blazers are the nine seed in the West, followed by the Pelicans and Kings. All three of those teams are 3.5 games back of Memphis for the eighth seed, however, Portland gets the nine seed because it played two more games than either New Orleans and Sacramento, went 1-1 in those two games, and that gives Portland a slightly better winning percentage (.439 to .438).

That winning percentage matters because it’s how the league will determine seeding in a situation where teams have played a different number of games, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

In practical terms, this may not matter much.

In the West, if Portland and New Orleans both went 8-0 in the seeding games then winning percentage would play a role with the Blazers getting the higher seed. However, that scenario is highly unlikely. More likely is wins and losses in Orlando will decide this and other tiebreakers (New Orleans beat Sacramento in their one head-to-head meeting, but our projected schedule for those teams has them playing twice, so the head-to-head tiebreaker is still up in the air). Because of how the records shake out, tiebreakers are irrelevant to Portland — it will not tie any teams, winning percentage will decide their seed.

In the East, winning percentage is irrelevant for the playoff chase — either Washington gets within four games of Orlando hand forces play-in games for the final playoff spot, or it doesn’t and Orlando is in.