Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kevin Love outduels Blake Griffin

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What you missed while buying way more Girl Scout cookies than you really should…

Thunder 95, Mavericks 92: Oklahoma City scored the final eight points to win another close contest, which was our game of the night.

Timberwolves 95, Clippers 94: With all their mistakes late, I have no idea how the Timberwolves pulled this one out. There was Martell Webster with the terrible turnover late. Then there was maybe the ugliest end-of-game possession ever: what was essentially a J.J. Barea isolation that ended in a scoop shot. Minnesota was still up three, the Clippers had one possession left when Derrick Williams foolishly fouls Chris Paul on his three attempt to tie it.

But Chris Paul missed the final free throw, Rubio got the rebound, was fouled and that spelled the end. (Really like the way Rubio wisely missed the second free throw intentionally, because with 1.8 seconds left the Clippers had no timeouts and could not go length of court and score). Kevin Love finished with 39 on 25 shots and was a dominant force in this game.

Bulls 92, Pacers 72: Revenge is a dish best served… oh, it doesn’t matter how it is served, it usually tastes pretty good. The Pacers beat the Bulls a couple weeks ago at the United Center and Derrick Rose and others thought the Pacers celebrated too much on their floor. It showed in a third quarter where the Bulls blew this open (33-13 in that quarter). Yes, Derrick Rose had 11 of his 13 in that quarter but it was really about the Bulls defense holding the Pacers to 27 percent shooting in the period.

Nuggets 119, Kings 116 (OT): The most entertaining game of the night. In part because Arron Afflalo had a career night with 32 points and took over late, except when Ty Lawson (16 points) was doing it like he has for the last week. On the other side there was an aggressive Tyreke Evans getting 27.

Great ending to this one. The Kings were up three and Denver had one last shot, Afflalo got the ball and overdribbled trying to get the three for himself rather than pass to a couple open teammates. He took a bad shot but he got bailed out when Marcus Thornton fouled him. Afflalo hit all three free throws and this one was bound for overtime. In the OT Kenneth Faried had four of his 20 — you have to love his energy every night. Still it was 116-116 with 2.6 seconds to go when Lawson hits the three to seal the win. Thornton plays the goat for Sacramento, but he had 27 on the night and they would not have been there at the end without him.

Warriors 120, Wizards 100: Golden State had 41 in the first quarter and just ran away with this one from the start. Monta Ellis had 14 in the first quarter and finished with 25 getting to sit the fourth. Klay Thompson had 18 (11 in the garbage time fourth, but who cares) and six Warriors were in double digits. Stephen Curry was back and made some plays, including a breakaway steal then up-and-under on John Wall that was impressive. Wall finished with 20.

Jazz 109, Cavaliers 100: You can’t stop Gordon Hayward… well, the Cavs couldn’t on Monday anyway as he had 10 in the third and 22 overall. But the real issue was that the Cavs had no answer for Al Jefferson and his 25 inside — the Jazz controlled the pain outrebounding the Cavs by 16. Kyrie Irving had 22, as did Antawn Jamison.

Magic 92, Raptors 88: Credit Toronto for really fighting in this one (something they always seem to do against Orlando). The Raptors had no answer whatsoever for Dwight Howard (sorry Aaron Gray) who finished with 36 points, hitting 16 of 20 shots, plus had 13 rebounds. (Note to Orlando players: You need to feed Dwight like this every night.) The Raptors led at times in the third and kept it close behind 23 from DeMar DeRozan, but J.J. Redick hit the dagger three with 9.7 seconds left. We had a Jerryd Bayless sighting — he had 12 points in the fourth quarter for Toronto (15 in the game). There are moments you think he’ll be good, but then they pass.

Bucks 97, Sixers 93: Brandon Jennings was on fire early with 19 points (and 2 assists) in the first quarter to put the Bucks ahead, but the Sixers fought back and led most of the second and third quarters. The Bucks made their next run (a 15-0 run) from the end of the third into the fourth, sparked in part by Drew Gooden who was the best paint player in this game and finished with 25. In the fourth quarter, on the second night of a back-to-back, Philly relied on Lou Williams who had 16 in the fourth quarter. But with the game tied 93-93 Beno Udrih hit an open 12 footer then at the other end Williams missed the floated with 6.7 left and that was essentially the ballgame. Jennings finished with 33. Sixers have lost 8 of 10 now.

Trail Blazers 86, Hornets 74: The Hornets hung around in this one until a 15-0 run midway through the third blew it open and Portland led by as many as 26 before coasting in for the win (a late 9-0 New Orleans run made it seem closer than it was). Nicolas Batum led the way with 19. The Blazers needed this win.

 

LeBron James on Lakers clinching No. 1 seed: ‘They said I couldn’t do it’

Lakers star LeBron James
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

LeBron James, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

“They said I couldn’t do it.”

“I’ll enjoy this one,” James said, nodding as he grinned. “They said I can’t do it.”

The Lakers entered the season fifth in the West in over-under wins (behind the Rockets, Clippers, Jazz and Nuggets).

But nobody credible thought the Lakers couldn’t get the No. 1 seed. With LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers obviously had that type of upside. Their championship odds were far more favorable. The main doubts stemmed from how seriously LeBron would take the regular season.

That said, in the age of social media, players hear both more praise and more criticism than ever before. LeBron surely heard from haters who ruled him out. Crowning himself the Washed King, LeBron probably internalized that fringe opinion.

Many players find slights to use as motivation. It worked for Michael Jordan. It works for LeBron.

But it does sound silly when an exalted player like LeBron talks this way.

Report: Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because team didn’t spend enough

Pacers owner Herb Simon and executives Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird, and Kevin Pritchard
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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Paul George said he left the Pacers because they weren’t willing to spend enough.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president in 2017, citing a desire to do more things outside basketball. Yet, he also reportedly had another reason.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.

Pacers owner Herb Simon has a certain way of doing things. Indiana hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2006, the first year the tax line was set before the season.

Despite that, the Pacers have been pretty good. They’ve qualified for the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons, peaking with appearances in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals.

Still, Indiana has lost in the first round four straight years. Another first-round loss appears the most likely outcome for this season.

That’s not exactly satisfying for players who want to win championships. Spending big isn’t absolutely necessary to compete on the highest levels. But it helps.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo is approaching 2021 unrestricted free agency. He’s a competitor who’ll evaluate, among other things, whether his current franchise matches his ambitions.

It’s easy to spend someone else’s money. Simon can decide his own limits. But there are consequences of his spending restraint – especially as perception grows about his relative thriftiness.

J.J. Redick describes thought behind meme: ‘I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing’

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J.J. Redick has made the playoffs all 13 of his previous NBA seasons.

The Pelicans have put that streak in jeopardy.

New Orleans lost its first two games in the bubble, a nail-biter against the Jazz and a rout against the Clippers. During that loss to L.A., cameras captured Redick – on the floor exercising his back while out of the game – with a distant stare that became an instant meme.

Redick on ESPN Daily:

I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing, and I think my face summed up that first half pretty well.

There’s so many circumstances you could apply the emotions that I was going through in that moment.

Redick is right: That meme fits many occasions, which gives it staying power.

However, it has plenty of competition. Though the feelings displayed aren’t the exact same, Redick didn’t even have the best reaction inside the bubble by an exasperated NBA player. That belongs to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic:

At least Redick got reason to perk up. The Pelicans beat the Grizzlies yesterday to gain ground in the playoff race.

Darren Collison says talk of him playing for Lakers was “overhyped”

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Darren Collison shocked the NBA last summer when he walked away from the game at age 32 — and a likely contract in the four-year, $70+ million range — and retired. His reasons were legitimate, he wanted to focus on his religion — “While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith,” Collison said at the time — but the league has seen a lot of players say they were walking away for good reasons only to come running back.

The rumors about a Collison return started just after January 1 and spun out of control in Los Angeles when he sat with Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss at a game.

Collison stayed retired, and told the “Minute til 6” podcast it wasn’t even close. He was never coming back.

“To keep it 100, they overhyped the whole thing. Like, I wasn’t even thinking about coming back.”

That game he went to? He just came to watch his friend Russell Westbrook.

“I just wanted to come watch the game as a fan.”

Collison also is smart enough to know how him sitting with Buss would be perceived.

Collison was wanted. The Lakers run LeBron James at the point but could have used the veteran Collison in the role Rajon Rondo filled as a secondary playmaker (Rondo is currently out with a thumb injury). Collison was rumored to the Clippers as well, and Doc Rivers can always find a way to use more guard depth.

Collison, however, seems at peace with his decision. If he wanted to return, he would have done it last summer for 10 figures a season, not for the minimum in January.