Baseline to Baseline recaps: No LeBron, no Wade, no problem

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What you missed while wondering what a crocodile would do with a lawn mower

Heat 116, Hawks 109 (3OT): No LeBron James or Dwyane Wade for Miami, yet the Heat were gritty (a little lucky) and get an unexpected win. This game was entertaining and dramatic, much more so than we expected going in. But can we be honest — the Hawks played terribly.

I like how Atlanta came out and stepped up the ball pressure to start, even in the back court. That was about the only thing I liked that they did. Jeff Teague should tear up the Heat point guards but he was unimpressive. Joe Johnson should have been the best wing player on the floor by a mile, but he was going half speed. Al Horford should have owned this game but he seemed a spectator. The Hawks best, most steady player was Ivan Johnson. Who, you ask? Exactly.

The game was dramatic, and once again Tracy McGrady was fantastic in the fourth quarter. But Chris Bosh sent the game to overtime with a three that is not really in his bag of tricks but it worked this time. Bosh finished with 33 points.

In the third overtime (and really much of the second half, it was Mario Chalmers who rode to the rescue for the Heat. This was a nice win for Miami. It’s the kind of game that makes you wonder if anything is different in Atlanta.

Trail Blazers 107, Lakers 97: The Portland Trail Blazers are the best team in the West right now.

They are atop the conference standings at 5-1 and this week have beaten both the Thunder and now Lakers. We’ve got questions about whether they can perform like this come playoff time, but as of early January they are playing better than anyone in the West.

In the first half the Lakers did what they wanted to on offense, getting the ball inside first as Andrew Bynum had 14 points on 7-7 shooting, plus Kobe Bryant had 17 points on 8-of-11. As a team, the Lakers shot 64 percent.

In the second half Portland stepped up their pressure — they played better defense and attacked the Lakers off missed shots. The Lakers started to settle for jump shots, hit just 32 percent of their shots for the half and Portland just ran. Gerald Wallace had 10 points in the third quarter alone while LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 28. Jamal Crawford created his own shots on the wing to the tune of 17 points and the Lakers wish they had somebody like that.

Spurs 93, Dallas 71: Sort of like the Heat, no Manu Ginobili and still no problem. This was the fourth game in five nights for an older Mavericks team and it showed, they looked old and tired. Dirk Nowitzki had just 6 points and got outplayed by Matt Boner (a team high 17 points), only two Mavs scored in double digits (Jason Terry and Delonte West) and as a team Dallas shot 1-of-19 from three. Both teams shot under 40 percent for the game, this one just wasn’t very pretty. But for a Spurs team without Manu Ginobili, this is a win they could use.

Kings 103, Bucks 100: Keith Smart is undefeated as Kings coach. The Bucks dominated the first half and were up 21 points in the third when things started to come apart. Marcus Thonton had 25 points in the second half for the Kings to lead the charge. Stephen Jackson had his chances for the Bucks, he wanted the ball and didn’t do much with it, finishing with 13. That includes a last a missed shot from the block to t The Bucks sure could have used Andrew Bogut back.

Adam Silver backs Knicks center Enes Kanter’s decision to skip London trip

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LONDON (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.

Silver, speaking ahead of Thursday’s game, says “it was never a suggestion from the league that (Kanter) was not welcome on this trip.”

“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver says.

Kanter, who has frequently criticized Erdogan, had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017.

Wizards beat Knicks with game-winning goaltending call in London Game

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The good people of England could use a break from the dumpster fire that is Brexit, so the NBA came to town to entertain with their very best… their biggest stars… the teams that were willing to go, the Knicks and the Wizards.

But the Londoners got to see one unusual ending.

The Knicks were up 100-99 thanks to a Noah Vonleh hook shot, but the Wizards had three seconds to try to get off a game winner. Scott Brooks designed an interesting play, with Bradley Beal starting in the backcourt and sprinting into the frontcourt, and when the defense moved to him as the likely shooter he passed to Thomas Bryant rolling down the lane, he put up the finger roll and…

That was a goaltend by Allonzo Trier to my eyes — the ball is just starting its downward trajectory, and it may have been over the cylinder (in an NBA arena there would have been an above-basket camera with a better angle on if it was over the rim, but that did not seem to be available in London).

The Wizards — who owner Ted Leonsis said will never tank, so forget about them trading away assets at the deadline — have won 3-of-4 and are 6-4 since John Wall was sidelined with his foot injury, with a +3 net rating in those games. Washington is now just two games out of the playoffs in the East and GM Ernie Grunfeld does not believe in tanking, so expect them to make a push.

Which is why wins like this matter.

PBT Extra: DeMarcus Cousins’ return will be big boost for Warriors. Maybe.

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The Golden State Warriors — the two-time defending NBA champs, the team on top of the Western Conference with the best offense in the NBA — are about to get a whole lot better.

Maybe.

Nobody really knows.

What we know is DeMarcus Cousins is scheduled to make his return to the court on Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Cousins missed the end of last season and all of this season recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

I get into all of it in this PBT Extra.

As NBC’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out, the history of big men bouncing back from this injury does not bode well for Cousins. On the other side, Cousins was so skilled, if the Warriors can get 75 percent of the old Cousins it will be an upgrade over Kevon Looney and give Golden State a guy who can exploit mismatches.

On paper, the Warriors should get better with Cousins in the lineup. But nobody really knows.

Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich says he doesn’t know whether he’ll retire after season

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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said in 2015 he made a commitment to newly signed LaMarcus Aldridge, presumably to coach through the five-year contract he signed in 2014.

That contract will expire after this season.

Then what?

Popovich, via Marc Stein of The New York Times:

“I don’t know the answer,” Popovich said when asked about his plans for next season in an interview Wednesday

Maybe Popovich is legitimately undecided about his future. Maybe he has a firm plan and was just being dismissive because he didn’t want to discuss it publicly. There’s obviously a massive difference between the two, but it’s difficult to parse from only his quote.

Popovich will coach Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and 2020 Olympics. That responsibility means a lot to the Air Force veteran. Some have even speculated he’ll retire from the NBA after this season to prepare for his USA Basketball duties.

In the meantime, Popovich remains one of the NBA’s top coaches. He has helped San Antonio turn around its season, building a strong offense around mid-range shooters DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge and getting everyone on enough of the same page defensively to be reasonable on that end. The Spurs aren’t a great team, but they’re good in ways that have Popovich’s fingerprints all over them.

Popovich could continue to succeed in the NBA for the foreseeable future. The question is – with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gone and Popovich nearing age 70 – how much longer he wants to do it.