Baseline to Baseline recaps: There are days the Magic look good

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What you missed while realizing your Valentine’s Day could have gone worse….

Knicks 100, Kings 85: The perfect storm that is Jeremy Lin continues, and it is our game of the night.

Hawks 101, Suns 99: Our own Brett Pollakoff was at this game and filed a report.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t give you a little Steve Nash video highlight from this one.

Magic 103, Sixers 87: This game followed the old axiom “you can’t win a game in the first quarter but you can lose it.” Orlando raced out to a 23-6 lead and never trailed. The Sixers tried, they made some rallies — like when they made push to cut it to nine inside of four minutes. But back-to-back threes by Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson pushed the lead to 15 and all but sealed it. Anderson finished with a game high 27, Dwight Howard had 17. Lou Williams led Philly with 21.

This game was a far cry from the meeting a couple weeks ago where the 76ers held the Magic to 69 points total.

Pistons 98, Celtics 88: Detroit owned the fourth quarter holding Boston to 28 percent shooting and just 16 points. Which is pretty much the opposite of what we all expected. But there was no Kevin Garnett (Boston’s defense scrambles around without him) and Paul Pierce seemed a ghost in the offense. Rajon Rondo tried to make up for it with a career best 32 points plus 15 dimes. Wasn’t enough when nobody else knocked down shots. Rodney Stuckey led Detroit with 25. Good win for the Pistons.

Spurs 113, Raptors 106: It was the Tony Parker show. He had 34 points — 14 in the fourth quarter to hold off the Raptors — and he dished out 14 assists. Parker was in attack mode and got most of those in the paint. Parker and Tiago Splitter (13 points) make a good pick-and-roll combo, he rolls hard to the rim. Manu Ginobili is showing flashes of his old self as he finds his footing. Neither team played the kind of defense we expected out of them. DeMar DeRozan dropped 29 for Toronto, two on this play.

Cavaliers 98, Pacers 87: Kyrie Irving was back from his concussion and looked fantastic on his way to 22. He helped spark the Cavaliers racing out to a quick double digit lead (32 first quarter points). But this was as much about a terrible Pacers performance, their fifth straight loss. Irving destroyed the Pacers defense on the pick-and-roll. The Pacers offense looked lost. They missed Danny Granger, but t more than that.

Grizzlies 105, Nets 100: Rudy Gay has been playing his best ball of the season since he got snubbed (or at least believes he got snubbed) for the All-Star Game, and he dropped 25 on the Nets. Marreese Speights has had a couple good games in a row now, scoring 20 with 18 boards in this one. Memphis is now 8-1 in games against teams below .500 — beating the teams you are supposed to matters. Deron Williams had 26 for New Jersey. Also, Memphis, stop with the Tams uniforms, please.

Rockets 96, Thunder 95: Oklahoma City’s end of game execution is just unimpressive. They had three chances at a game-winning shot in the final 24 seconds and it was isolation without ball movement, ending with contested jumpers from Kevin Durant. He missed, and Russell Westbrook missed a tip in. They rely on their amazing athleticism, but I just want to see guys get better looks by design.

That said, the Rockets may have won this in the first quarter when they built a 19 point lead. Kevin Martin had 12 of his 32 in the first quarter, but the biggest two may have come on the game tying and winning free throws when he drew a foul in the fourth. For a guy who went scoreless the night before it was a huge turnaround. The Rockets made the big plays late when they had to. Durant finished with 33.

Timberwolves 102, Bobcats 90: Charlotte hung around well into the third quarter, so they can claim a moral victory if they want. In reality it is 16 straight losses, they are historically bad. Minnesota pulled away in the fourth, which is when Nicola Pekovic scored 9 of his 21, he’s been fantastic of late. Kevin Love had 30 points and 18 rebounds.

Hornets 92, Bucks 89: Milwaukee got booed by their own home crowd as they were down double digits to a 5-win team. The Bucks are not defending like a Scott Skiles team and Marco Belinelli took advantage to score 22 points including shooting 6-of-7 from three. The Bucks have lost three straight and looked bad doing it.

Mavericks 102, Nuggets 84: Dallas won this was with suffocating defense — Denver shot 36 percent for the game and scored only 39 points in the first half. Denver, on the other hand, played poor defense all night and Dallas used balance (six players in double figures) to put up big numbers. This was a blowout early and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle got to rest his starters during the fourth.

Trail Blazers 93, Warriors 91: Portland finally won a close game — and did it with a late 10-3 run. The Blazers did it without LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle sprain) and against a Warriors team that had won three in a row. Gerald Wallace took control for Portland and finished with 24 points. Still, Golden State had a chance at the end on a final play — Nate Robinson got into the lane and falling down got the ball to Brandon Rush for a game-winning look at a corner three, but it didn’t fall. Robinson and Rush in the clutch? Yes. Warriors coach Mark Jackson liked how his bench had played and rode the hot hand (which was smart, Robinson was hot had more points in the fourth quarter than Ellis did all game). David Lee was the exception as he had 29 for the Warriors.

Clippers 102, Wizards 84: The score looks like a blowout but this was close until the fourth quarter. Los Angeles looked flat early (just getting home after a six-game road trip) and John Wall’s speed seemed to make the Clippers look like they were moving in slow motion. But Wall couldn’t finish (4-of-13 shooting). He did dish out a dozen assists and JaVale McGee started out hot (he finished with 18). But like a good team should, the Clippers found a way in the fourth, when Randy Foye had 10 in the quarter. Blake Griffin had 23 on the night (and some monster dunks), Caron Butler had 21.

 

Rumor: Kawhi Leonard directly told Gregg Popovich he wanted to leave Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met in San Diego yesterday.

How did the discussion go? Reports have been mixed about even the nature of the meeting, let alone a resolution from either side.

But here’s an update with a reportedly direct conclusion.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:

From what my sources told me, Kawhi Leonard met with Gregg Popovich face-to-face, looked him dead in his face and told him “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be in San Antonio any longer.”

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers, last week. There was some hope Popovich could mend the relationship, but that seems to running thin. There is so much bitterness between both sides.

The next question: What do the Spurs do about it?

Do they keep trying to ease tension with the 26-year-old superstar? Do they trade him? If so, when? Before or during the draft?

No matter what Leonard told Popovich yesterday, San Antonio has big decisions to make and soon. Leonard firmly stating a desire to leave would be clarifying, but it’d hardly make this situation easy to handle.

Brendan Haywood: Former Hornets teammates ‘sick and tired’ of Dwight Howard’s act

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It has become an annual tradition – Dwight Howard getting traded then his former teammates celebrating his exit.

It happened with the Hawks last year. Now, it’s happening with the Hornets, who sent Howard to the Nets.

Brendan Haywood, via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

Now retired, Haywood played with current Hornets Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist his final season. He also knows many other players throughout the league.

Howard went to Charlotte and declared himself team leader – despite the presence of Walker, the franchise player. Howard’s immaturity and ego have rubbed teammates and coaches the wrong way for years.

But at least this is progress. Howard’s time with the Magic, Lakers and Rockets devolved into interpersonal strife well before he left those teams.

Rumor: Knicks will take Villanova’s Mikal Bridges at No. 9

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Most mock drafts have the Philadelphia 76ers taking Mikal Bridges at No. 10, keeping the Villanova star in Philly.

But what if he’s not on the board?

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports the Knicks are going to take Bridges at No. 9.

Sources have indicated Bridges still is the favorite to be the Knicks’ selection at nine Thursday — even if Michael Porter Jr. falls. The Knicks are starting to get cold feet on the uber-talented Porter after his latest mishap last week, when he incurred hip spasms before his on-again, off-again, on-again public workout in Chicago….

In the big picture, president Steve Mills and (new GM Scott) Perry need to land a central building block that will contribute next season to show Kristaps Porzingis, a restricted free agent in 2019, there’s a future, and also to entice a 2019 free agent. Point guard Kyrie Irving is squarely on the Knicks’ radar.

While Kentucky freshman forward Kevin Knox opened the Knicks’ eyes with a surprising workout and has gotten consideration late in the process, Bridges is the best bet. Perry said recently adding “a solid rotational player” at nine is as important as shooting for an All-Star.

It’s unlikely Porter is on the board at No. 9. The Cavaliers like him a lot and will take him if he falls to No. 8, the Bulls could grab his one spot earlier, and there are teams farther down the draft board looking to trade up and snag Porter.

Bridges projects to be just what Mills may want — a solid rotational player, and one who can step in soon and contribute.

But the Knicks need talent, and Knox out of Kentucky has the higher ceiling thanks to elite athleticism (he has climbed a lot of teams’ draft boards during workouts). He can play some three or be a small ball four, and if he shows consistency with his jumper, he has the athleticism to be part of a team’s core.

 

Knox may have the higher ceiling, but the Knicks need not to miss, and Bridges is that.

Ayton, Young, Porter and more: PBT’s in-depth draft prospect breakdowns

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In the days before the draft, there’s more smoke clouding the picture around the NBA draft than there is at a Snoop Dogg concert.

What you need to cut through all that is someone who knows these players, has seen them multiple times over the years, spoken to them, knows their game.

That’s where Rob Dauster comes in. The lead writer at NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk, he has seen these players while they were in high school, spoken to them, followed their college careers — and he broke down their games for us at NBC. It’s what you need to know about the top guys in the draft.

Check these stories out:

DEANDRE AYTON

He has the size. He has the length. He has the athleticism, explosiveness, fluidity, and mobility. He can space the floor and, in theory, both protect the rim and handle his own if forced to guard on the perimeter. In theory, Ayton is the total package and an ideal five for the modern NBA.

Whether or not he will live up to his considerable potential is a different story.

MARVIN BAGLEY III

Offensively, he’s everything that you want from a small-ball five. He can dominate in the paint, he can space the floor and he is aggressive and productive on the glass. He was a walking double-double in college and it’s not hard to project him being the same in the NBA.

The problem is that he is not a five on the defensive end of the floor.

JAREN JACKSON JR.

He will fit seamlessly into the modern NBA given the combination of skills that he has while the other four players projected to go in the top five this year have more question marks….

He’s 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. He shot 39.6 percent from three after shooting 43.8 percent from three on the EYBL circuit in 2016. He averaged 3.0 blocks despite playing just under 22 minutes a night as a freshman. He is as switchable as any big man in this class defensively because of his ability to move his feet. 

MO BAMBA

A 7-foot-0.5 center with a 7-foot-10 wingspan — which will be the longest in the NBA as soon as he steps onto an NBA court — Bamba’s ability as a game-changing defensive presence is at the core of what makes him such an appealing prospect. He finished with freshman season with a block rate of 13.2, averaging 4.9 blocks per 40 minutes and anchoring a Texas defense that finished the year ranked 12th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric…

There are questions about his strength and his toughness and his love for the game. Does he play because he’s addicted to the game, or is it simply because he was blessed with the physical gifts that will makes NBA teams salivate and invest millions and millions of dollars into him in the hopes that he pays dividends as the NBA’s preeminent defensive anchor?

MICHAEL PORTER JR.

He is a tantalizing talent that can do things athletically and as a shooter that 6-foot-11 people are not supposed to be able to do… He was good enough at Hoop Summit and on the all-star circuit that there were people that were projecting him as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft as recently as November.

But all of that changed in the course of the last seven months. It starts with the back injury… And that’s before you get into the questions about his position and his makeup.

Porter has a ceiling as high as anyone in this draft, but when the floor is as low as his is, it makes him a scary — and risky — player to take.

TRAE YOUNG

He became the first player in Division I history to lead the nation in scoring and assists, but he did it as a player that doesn’t like to play defense on a team that couldn’t figure out how to win late in the year.

Is he the second-coming of Steph Curry?

Or is he Jimmer Fredette?