Baseline to Baseline recaps: Hope in Orlando… maybe

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What you missed while suddenly caring about what happens to Western Kentucky’s basketball team….

Magic 104, Heat 98 (OT): Let’s not read too much into one game. I know Dwight Howard is talking about wanting to stay and contend with this team, but I’m not on board with them as contenders yet.

That said, they were down 14 to the Heat and did not roll over. They fought back. We all know Howard is a beast — 25 points, 26 and he even hit some key free throws late. The question has always been who else could create shots and get points on the Magic. Well Jameer Nelson had 25 points and showed that when on he is a force. For a night they were good enough.

Chris Bosh had a quality 23, Dwyane Wade had 28.

Lakers 116, Grizzlies 111 (2OT): This would be a fun first round playoff series. All the other teams in the West playoffs would love to see it, too — please pit the two best front lines in the West against each other and let them beat each other up and not us.

The Grizzlies are still without one of their key front line guys in Zach Randolph, but Marreese Speights stepped up and had 25 points, many of those knocking down midrange jumpers. Which was more than we can say for O.J. Mayo, whose 7-for-25 (and 0-for-8 from three) really shot Memphis out of the second overtime.

But the best big on the court was Andrew Bynum — 37 points on 18 shots, plus 16 rebounds. The Lakers ran a great set with a wing pick-and-pop where Kobe Bryant was the ball handler and Pau Gasol did the pop. The Grizzlies would trap Kobe, he would slide the ball to Gasol who would take steps toward the basket, when the help defender would come off Bynum on the weak side Gasol would throw a lob and Bynum threw it down. The Grizzlies had no answer.

Rockets 104, Thunder 103: This felt like a lot of other Thunder games — it was close most of the way, then midway through the fourth quarter they pulled away. James Harden was orchestrating the offense (and had 9 points in the fourth) and a 16-2 run had the Thunder up 9 inside of three minutes left. Then a 13-4 run by the Rockets to end the game gave them the win. Oklahoma City normally plays its best defense late in games but the Rockets were getting to the rim and getting open looks from three. And hitting the shots. Meanwhile the Thunder went away from Harden and struggled to score.

In the middle of that run the Russell Westbook got frustrated with Goran Dragic and picked up a technical. One point. Lots for the Thunder to regret at the end of this one.

Nuggets 118, Hawks 117 (OT): The most entertaining game of the night. There was a real, back-and-forth, “anything you can do I can do better” feel to it. Of course, nobody is doing anything better than Gallinari’s three that we thought would be the game winner at the end of regulation, which was flat out ridiculous. But this game had a lot of highlights. Josh Smith’s jumper was falling and when that happens he cannot be stopped, he finished with 33 points, 13 boards and seven assists. I feel bad for Zaza Pachulia — that was a great play call to catch a Nuggets team that can fall asleep on defense at the end of the overtime, and he just missed the layup.

Raptors 96, Cavaliers 88: Toronto took control of this game in the second quarter (when the shot 72 percent) and never let it go, thanks to good games from Andrea Bargnani (19 points) and Jerryd Bayless (filling in for Jose Calderon).

Pacers 92, Trail Blazers 75: Oh, Portland, what has happened to you? Indiana is a good team with good big men, but Portland let them turn the paint into their own private playground at both ends of the court. And the Blazers had five — just 5 — assists all game. On top of it all, Marcus Camby left the game with a shoulder injury. Good win for the Pacers, but we had such hopes for Portland early in the season.

Mavericks 107, Wizards 98: This was the kind of win Dallas needed, where they simply overwhelmed and inferior and less disciplined team. They didn’t do it well — a 10-0 Washington run in the third and a 10-3 one in the fourth kept it close, but the Mavericks were in control. Dirk Nowitzki had 27 points, Jason Terry 24.

Warriors 115, Kings 89: Call it the Ewing Theory, a trade bump, whatever you want — earlier in the day Golden State shipped half their team (it seemed) away and they came out as the more motivated and cohesive team. David Lee and Nate Robinson each had 17 and Charles Jenkins had 9 of his 15 in the fourth quarter for Golden State. Six Warriors were in double digits, it was a real team effort from a team that was shaken up earlier in the day.

James Harden scores 37 but Joel Embiid’s 32 leads 76ers to 121-93 rout of Rockets

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid relished the chance to face James Harden, and wasn’t going to let a little back tightness stop him.

Embiid had 32 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Philadelphia 76ers past fellow MVP contender Harden and the Houston Rockets 121-93 on Monday night.

“I love playing against guys you guys say are better than me,” Embiid said.

Harden, selected Western Conference player of the week earlier in the day, finished with 37 points – giving him 20 straight games with at least 30.

Philadelphia played without four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler (sore right wrist), and Embiid more than made up for his absence.

“It was really fun for us,” Embiid said. “Don’t think it was fun for them.”

Embiid was questionable before the game with lower back soreness and coach Brett Brown hinted during pregame it might be best for the Philadelphia big man to sit this one out. Embiid clearly had other intentions.

“I want to fight with my teammates,” he said. “Whatever I have to do, I’ll do for my team.”

His 24 first-half points helped Philadelphia to a 65-50 halftime lead, and he punctuated an entertaining opening 24 minutes by pinning Harden’s layup attempt with 7.5 seconds left for a crowd-pleasing block. The duo had to be separated with 38.7 seconds left in the half, with each being issued a technical, after Harden took exception to Embiid’s foul on him.

The 76ers broke the game open in a dominant third quarter as they outscored Houston 29-13 to take a 94-63 advantage into the fourth. Ben Simmons stole Harden’s pass, made a layup and finished a three-point play after being fouled by Harden to make it 73-52. The lead kept growing, getting as large as 31.

“We were due for a game like this,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Harden had 10 points in the third but missed four of six field goal tries as the 76ers hounded him defensively with double-teams and different looks. A tired-looking Harden’s air ball with 12.3 seconds left in the third showed the effects of the Philadelphia defense – and, perhaps, Harden’s offensive workload.

With the game out of range, Harden sat in the fourth.

“This is not a great way to rest him, but we rested him today,” D’Antoni said.

 

Doc Rivers seemingly blames Steve Ballmer for Clippers losing Joe Ingles

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Entering the 2014-15 season, the Clippers had to waive someone to meet the regular-season roster maximum. Their choice came down to Joe Ingles and Jared Cunningham, neither of whom had guaranteed salaries.

L.A. kept Cunningham and waived Ingles. Cunningham never made a significant NBA impact. The Jazz claimed Ingles on waivers, and he became a quality starter in Utah.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers was also team president at that time.

Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News:

When asked Wednesday if he regrets that decision, Rivers answered, “all the time.”

“I said it the day we released him that this was a bad decision and that we’re going to regret it,” he said. “Unfortunately I was working for someone who said we couldn’t eat a contract. We were begging to eat one contract and they said that will never happen and we had to let him go.”

Did Rivers confuse the timeline and think he was blaming Donald Sterling, the former Clippers owner who was notoriously cheap? Current owner Steve Ballmer bought the team and was announced as the owner before the start of the 2014-15 season, when Ingles was signed for camp and released. Ballmer has talked big about spending, and is Rivers’ boss right now. It’d be strange for Rivers to criticize Ballmer like this, but I also can’t figure out whom else he’d be referring to besides the owner. As team president, Rivers had no other oversight within basketball operations.

Maybe Rivers wanted to keep both Ingles and Cunningham and waive someone with a guaranteed salary – likely Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ekpe Udoh or Glen Davis. But, in hindsight, the obviously right call would have been waiving whichever of those players was necessary to keep Ingles.

The frequent criticism of the Clippers about Ingles is somewhat unfair. They brought Ingles to training camp when other teams didn’t. The only reason they were positioned to waive him is because they were ahead of the curve on him.

But they also had the unique opportunity to evaluate him up close and still decided he wasn’t worth a roster spot.

How did that decision get made? Rivers passing the buck only adds confusion. It seemed as if it were his decision.

Luka Doncic becomes second NBA teenager to record triple-double, Bucks rout Mavs anyway

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Is Luka Doncic an All-Star?

He’s not a starter (in my vote, anyway) but in what is an exhibition designed to give the fans what they want, why not have Doncic in the game? He is what the fans want. I’m not convinced he’ll make the cut — at least in the ridiculously deep West, in the East he probably would — but it’s a legitimate conversation. The kid can flat-out ball.

Case in point, he dropped a triple-double on the Bucks on MLK Day, becoming only the second teenager to record an NBA triple-double. (The other was Markelle Fultz, who was 10-days younger when he got his, also against Milwaukee.) Doncic finished the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Doncic’s play was not enough to keep the Bucks from racking up their fifth straight win, and doing it pretty easily (although Dallas made an 11-0 fourth-quarter run to make it a little interesting). Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 15 rebounds, while Eric Bledsoe had 21 points, and Brook Lopez finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks (that was Lopez’s first double-double with the Bucks).

Reports: Houston trades Carmelo Anthony to Chicago, who will waive him

Associated Press
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Carmelo Anthony‘s sabbatical is over. Sort of.

Anthony, who has been on the Houston roster but not with the team after that experiment crashed and burned 10 games into the season, will be traded to the Chicago Bulls. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story (and other reports have since confirmed it). However, he’s not going to be putting on a Bulls’ jersey.

He may not be waived until after the Feb. 7 deadline, in case the Bulls find a way to use his salary in a one-for-one trade (his salary cannot be combined with others in a deal because he was just traded). If/when he is waived, at that point there will be more roster shuffling around the league and a landing spot for ‘Melo may open up.

Houston’s trade is much like the trade from Oklahoma City to Atlanta last summer that moved Anthony off the Thunder roster. The Hawks waived him and Anthony signed with the Rockets. For the Rockets, this is about saving money.

The Bulls also make a little under a million in this deal. If another team signs Anthony, it would be a benefit for the Hawks.

It’s unclear where Anthony’s ultimate landing spot will be, although his agent has said there are options.

After his struggles in Houston — where the future Hall of Famer thought he deserved more than a bench role due to his stature, even though because of his declining offensive skills and defense that’s all he warranted — it’s hard to imagine another contender or even playoff team picking him up. Maybe a franchise going all in on the Zion Williamson chase but wants a bump at the gate from the name recognition Anthony brings him in? Although for teams trying to develop young talent why take the ball out of those young guys’ hands to let Anthony jack up contested twos? Most likely it will be a team battling injuries and looking for help.

In 10 games for the Rockets this season coming off the bench, Anthony averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, shot just 40.5 percent overall and 32.8 percent from three. The Rockets’ defense was 10.4 points per 100 possessions better when Anthony sat.