Baseline to Baseline recaps: Turns out LeBron can score a lot

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What you missed while watching Baylor win the national title and thinking Brittney Griner can flat out ball….

Heat 99, Sixers 93: The Heat needed a win and they had LeBron James in a scoring mood — those things go together like Oreos and milk for Miami. The result was James putting up a season high 41 (while Dwyane Wade sat with what officially is a sore knee but he had looked tired lately) and the Heat got a win they needed.

The 76ers led most of the second quarter thanks to Evan Turner’s 11 points in the period (he had 26 for the game), but the Heat opened the second half on a 12-1 run and never looked back. The other key turning point was when Mario Chalmers accidentally poked Andre Iguodala in the eye in the third quarter — Iggy left and did not return. Without his defense, James had 15 of his points in the fourth to keep the game out of reach.

With the win the Heat are 2.5 back of the Bulls for the best record in the East, the Sixers are now 1.5 back of the Celtics for the Atlantic Division crown. Both of them could catch the teams above them, but both will need help.

Pacers 112, Knicks 104: New York led by 15 heading into the fourth quarter then got outscored 40-17 in the final frame and lost. Indiana shot 59 percent in the fourth — Danny Granger had 14 of his 27 in the final frame including some key threes — while the Knicks hit just 35 percent. Tyler Hansbrough had a dozen points in the fourth, Leandro Barbosa six as it was the Pacers’ bench (with Granger) that made the run. Lou Amundson deserves a shoutout too for his efforts — he is one of the best energy off the bench bigs in the game.

Carmelo Anthony had 39 points and played well most of the night — he is so obviously happy being the top dog where the offense must go through him. But this is a potentially soul-crushing loss for the Knicks, we’ll have to see how they bounce back.

Spurs 125, Cavaliers 90: The Spurs did what the Spurs do — they got in the lane (Tony Parker on drives) and either made shots close to the basket or got fouled, then when you adjust they kick out for threes and knock them down. They are an efficient machine. Patty Mills had 20 off the bench to lead six Spurs in double figures. San Antonio’s Danny Green dropped 19 on the team that cut him as some sweet revenge. Cleveland looked like a team playing out the string.

Pistons 102, Magic 95: Once again no Dwight Howard and this time no Ryan Anderson for the Magic. Without Howard to defend him Greg Monroe had 22 points on 11 shots, plus grabbed 11 boards. Glen Davis had 31 trying to balance out the Magic’s offense, but he can’t defend anywhere near like Howard.

Lakers 91, Nets 87: This looked like the Lakers cruising to a win, up 12 entering the fourth quarter. But then Los Angeles went cold, shooting 30 percent in the final frame and scoring just 13 points and letting the Nets come back to tie it. Five of the Lakers fourth quarter points came on late Kobe buckets (including the dagger three) to save the day, but it shouldn’t have come to that if you ask the Lakers. With Andrew Bynum out Pau Gasol had a good game with 22 points and he got 16 of his shots at the rim. Deron Williams had 20 — 10 during the fourth quarter — to lead the Nets.

Grizzlies 98, Warriors 94: Memphis needed a 17-2 run to come back from a dozen down in the fourth quarter and get this win. Memphis outscored Golden State 28-15 in the final frame. Mike Conley was back and had 18 points for Memphis, who also got nine points in the fourth quarter from Dante Cunningham. The on-fire Nate Robinson showed up for the Warriors and had 18 — it’s always entertaining when good Nate is at the party — and David Lee had 22.

Raptors 92, Bobcats 87: Toronto led from the second quarter on but never pulled away because… well, because they’re Toronto. Andrea Bargnani had 30 while DeMar DeRozan had 20 and controlled the second half. Good game from Byron Mullins, who had 20 and 14 for Charlotte.

Suns 109, Kings 100: First things first — DeMarcus Cousins was a full on beast and had 41 points. He helped the Kings erase a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to make a game of it. But there was Steve Nash at the end — he had 18 points and 12 assists and in the final minutes was controlling the game. With the win, the Suns slim playoff hopes stay alive.

 

James Harden reiterates it was “false talk” he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.

Report: R.C. Buford moving on from Spurs GM role, Brian Wright taking over

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For 15 years, through championships and an unparalleled run of playoff berths and success, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich seemed to work as one brain. Popovich was the coach but also team president, Buford the GM, and together they built an NBA powerhouse.

Buford is moving on from that role. Or, more precisely moving up into a new management role, and assistant GM Brian Wright is taking over as GM, reports Jabari Young of The Athletic.

After a little more than 15 years serving as GM, Buford is getting prepared to bequeath the role to assistant GM Brian Wright, league sources have confirmed to The Athletic. Wright will report directly to Buford, who will officially get a new title that some around the NBA believe will be a role helping to oversee Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

When the Spurs initially hired Wright in 2016, he stayed behind the scenes and focused mainly on scouting. But sources have informed The Athletic over the last year Wright has been more involved, even fielding calls and packages for the trade of Kawhi Leonard the previous summer.

Wright came to the Spurs from the Pistons a couple of years ago. That said, don’t expect a big change in how things are done in the Spurs front office. For one thing, Popovich is still there. Also, Wright has an excellent reputation around the league as being smart and a straight shooter. On top of all of that, Buford will remain his ultimate boss, although Buford’s role will change into one of more of a business manager for Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

Young hints there could be more changes coming. Obviously, the biggest would be when Popovich decides to step back in his dual roles as coach and president, but there could be shifts in the assistant GM ranks as well.

Just don’t expect the Spurs to stop being the Spurs.