Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs lose and we have a DeAndre Jordan sighting

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while you were watching the first episode of the new season of Top Chef and thinking you could make an omelet….

Jazz 95, Lakers 86: Well, that was about as ugly as the Lakers have looked this season. Utah’s front line owned the Lakers, our own Darius Soranio broke it down.

Nuggets 93, Rockets 87: The Nuggets looked more like the Nuggets team a lot of us thought would give the better teams in the West trouble. D.J. Foster broke this down as our Game of the Night.

Clippers 106, Spurs 84: If DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin came out and played like this every night, we’d all be thinking the Clippers could be contenders. Jordan had 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 11 rebounds and was aggressive rolling to the basket like we almost never see from him, while Griffin added 22 points (on 16 shots) and 10 rebounds. The Clippers hit their first seven shots of the second half to pull away and never look back in this one.

The Clippers didn’t play with this kind of defensive energy against the Cavaliers or Warriors in recent games, they floated through those. This time they came out with a real focus to stop the other team. We’ll see if they can find that consistently. San Antonio falls to 4-1, after the game they just called it an off night for them. Which is also true, no Spur hit more than 4 shots from the field, but the Clips deserve some credit for causing part of it as well.

Celtics 98, Wizards 94 (OT): Boston didn’t look impressive but they got the win and that’s what counts. They jumped out to a 9-0 lead but never led by more, they shot 36 percent in the first half and let the depleted Wizards hang around. They got away with it.

Boston had a chance to end this on the last play of regulation, but rather than running a play we got to see a Rondo isolation three with no imagination whatsoever, and he missed it. In overtime Brandon Bass scored 5 to get Boston the win. Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 13 boards. Bradley Beal had 16 in his best game as a Wizard.

Suns 117, Bobcats 110: This ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the night, a game was tied 85-85 late before Phoenix pulled away. Mind you it was not one of the best played games — it lacked little things like defense, but it was fun. Shannon Brown had 24 points — 18 in the fourth quarter — and was a perfect 6-of-6 from beyond the arc to lead the Suns to the win. He got help from Michael Beasley who had his best game as a Sun with 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. Marcin Gortat had seven blocks. Byron Mullens had 24 to lead the Bobcats.

Hawks 89, Pacers 86: Welcome to the game of wild second half swings. Atlanta had been in the lead until an 18-0 run by the Pacers not only gave them a lead but a comfortable 14 point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Then Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver took over and Atlanta had an 18-0 run of its own to get the win.

Roy Hibbert continues to struggle this season — 9 points on 4-11 shooting and 7 boards. They need more from him with Danny Granger out.

Heat 103, Nets 77: Brooklyn is not a good defensive team. Miami is. That is what this game really was about.

Miami hadn’t shown a lot of defense yet this season but they held the Nets to 37 percent shooting overall and 3-of-21 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile the Nets could not figure out how to matchup with the Heat (they missed Gerald Wallace who was out injured). Brook Lopez was chasing Chris Bosh around and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade beat their men off the dribble and found nobody between them and the rim. The Heat were moving the ball crisply and it seems every shot they took was an open one. Wade had 22 points, LeBron 20 points (on 12 shots) and 12 rebounds. Rashard Lewis added 13 off the bench.

Grizzlies 108, Bucks 90: Memphis started the second quarter with a 9-0 run to take a comfortable lead and never looked back, cruising to a win on the road. Zach Randolph was a force with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Marreese Speights added 18 points and 11 boards off the bench. Everyone was pitching in for Memphis — Milwaukee made a run to get the lead down to 7 in the third quarter and Quincy Pondexter first then Wayne Ellington knocked down key threes and that was all she wrote.

Sixers 77, Hornets 62: No Anthony Davis, no Eric Gordon and no Austin Rivers meant no points — New Orleans scored a record franchise low as they shot just 33.8 percent and had 24 turnovers. The first half of this game was sloppy and ugly, but Philly opened the second half on a 10-0 run, took care of the rock and defended. Jrue Holiday had 14 points and 12 assists.

Mavericks 109, Raptors 104: Dirk who? Dallas is off to a fast 4-1 start with another win, this one earned without Elton Brand (wife having a baby), Shawn Marion (left knee), Rodrigue Beaubois (left ankle) and Dirk Nowitizki (knee surgery). Still Dallas was in control from the start, up double digits most of the night and got 22 from Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo. Andrea Bargnani led Toronto with 25 points.

Kings 105, Pistons 103: Well, someone had to win this one. The Kings picked up their second straight win at home over a Pistons team that is winless and playing worse than pretty much anyone in the NBA. Sacramento took charge in the second quarter and never really looked back, DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way. Greg Monroe had a triple-double in a loosing effort — 21 points, 12 boards and 11 assists.

Warriors 106, Cavaliers 96: No Anderson Varejao and no Tyler Zeller for Cleveland due to injuries meant it was the David Lee show for Golden State as he racked up 22 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Warriors to victory. The Warriors took control with a 17-4 run late in the third quarter, a run fueled by Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry (he finished with 19 points).

Timberwolves 90, Magic 75: This was a thrashing — Orlando needed a late 14-2 run to get the finals score as close as it was. To be fair, they got the lead down to five in the third quarter but Minny responded with a 28-6 run fueled by Greg Stiemsma scoring 10 of his 12 on the night, and that was it. Luke Ridnour led the Timberwolves with 19 points. Orlando shot just 35 percent for the game.

The time Shaq peed in Suns teammate Lou Amundson’s shoes – and worse!

Suns players Lou Amundson and Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
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Gilbert Arenas has earned a reputation as the NBA player who relieved himself in a teammate’s shoe (Wizards forward Andray Blatche’s).

But Arenas’ tactic wasn’t unique.

Shaquille O’Neal got into a prank war with Suns teammate Lou Amundson during the 2008-09 season. It got intense as Phoenix, coached by Alvin Gentry, reached the final game of its season.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on “The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz” local hour, hosted by Mike Ryan:

Shaq is the big prankster, the big joker. But if you do something against him, there’s no tit for tat. There’s tit for nuclear war.

He goes to Lou’s locker, grabs his sneakers, pees in them.

That’s the start, right? He then goes and let’s just say “messes with” some of Lou’s haircare devices, like his brush and his comb and stuff. Messes with them. Let me put it this way: Messes with them in a way that – I was comfortable telling you he peed in the shoes. I’m not comfortable telling you what he did to the hair stuff. And then this part, I will tell you: He tampers with Lou’s mouth guard.

He tampers with it.

He tampers with it.

Lou shows up at like 8 or whenever he usually shows up. And he’s skittish and nervous. And Suns.com is there like, “What do you think Shaq is going to do?” “I don’t know. I think he’s going to do something, though.”

So, I’ll never forget this. He’s sitting at the locker, and he opens – he starts to reach for the sneakers and then looks at them and says, “Nah, something doesn’t feel right.” Opens the door up, pulls out a fresh pair of sneakers for the last game of the year, right? Again, this is irregular behavior. Usually, you have a couple of sneakers. You break them in for the year, and you switch between two or three or three or four, whatever. So to break out a whole brand new pair … was weird.

Most of the time when you’re an NBA player, you don’t put on the mouth guard immediately. You have it in a case, and you give the case to the trainer. Then, you go out to the bench. Then, when you’re about to come into the game, that’s when you grab your mouthpiece.

There’s no funnier image than Alvin drawing up a play, kneeling down, coaches standing around him. Lou is sitting there, because now he’s in the game. The guys who are in the game are usually seated. Sitting there just staring at the clipboard, like, “OK, coach. I got you.” And everyone else is just staring at Lou. No one’s paying attention.

Puts the mouth guard in. One, two [sounds of disgust], takes the mouth guard out and flings it with tremendous accuracy at the bench. Everyone starts dying. I remember going back and watching the broadcast, “Oh, Suns bench seems to be getting a lot of fun.” They had no idea what’s happening.

What did Shaq do to Amundson’s mouth guard? My imagination is running WILD.

Elhassan also explains why Grant Hill took 25 shots – his most in four years – in that game. Hill needed to score 26 points to average 12 points per game for the season, which would trigger a large bonus in his shoe contract. Hill’s gunning got him 27 points.

It’s a good podcast with other fun anecdotes and worth a listen.

Magic: Mo Bamba out for playoffs, undergoing post-coronavirus evaluation

Magic center Mo Bamba
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
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Mo Bamba contracted coronavirus, fell out of shape, recovered, joined the Magic in the bubble then struggled to contribute on the court.

Now, he’s departing the bubble for good.

Magic:

The Magic are huge underdogs in their first-round series against the Bucks. This doesn’t really change the equation. Bamba had already fallen from the rotation, which is now comprised of Nikola Vucevic and Khem Birch at center.

But it raises thorny long-term questions.

Bamba was the No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Though he has underwhelmed so far, the Magic were still hoping he’d grow into a quality NBA player. Bamba at least improved from his rookie season.

His progress has obviously been halted. For how long? Will he face lasting effects?

Everyone is trying to get to the bottom of these difficult questions.

Reported Bulls coaching candidates: Kenny Atkinson, Stephen Silas, Darvin Ham, more

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The Bulls fired Jim Boylen. 76ers assistant Ime Udoka was reportedly frontrunner for the job, but Chicago will conduct a full search.

Who else is in the mix?

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The broad search is expected to include former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and 76ers assistant Ime Udoka, among others, sources said.

Atkinson is the only former head coach on that list. Like Tyronn Lue for win-now teams, Atkinson is the top available coach for rebuilding teams. (If fired by the 76ers, Brett Brown could supplant Atkinson.) Atkinson had a strong record of player development before Brooklyn shifted priorities.

The Bulls – with Zach LaVine, Coby White, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and a high first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft – could use someone like him.

But Atkinson could have options, and Chicago might not be the most desirable opening.

Udoka, Silas, Ham and Unseld are all rising assistants who have earned head-coaching consideration. Interviews should help determine whether they’re ready for that step.

PBT NBA All-Bubble Awards

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and Rockets star James Harden
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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The NBA will announce seeding-game awards tomorrow.

But the play-in is already set. Other playoff matchups are already set. The final seeding games today are just glorified scrimmages.

So, why wait to name the top performers in the bubble?

Here are our picks using the same format as the league – a Most Valuable Player, two five-player teams (no positions) and a coach:

Bubble MVP

Kurt Helin Dan Feldman
Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers) Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)

Kurt Helin: It isn’t simply that Damian Lillard led the bubble in scoring at 37.6 points per game. It wasn’t how he got those points, with ridiculously deep threes and driving layups. It was when he did it that makes him bubble MVP: When the Trail Blazers had a rough outing (as did Lillard) and looked like they might fade from postseason contention, he came back next game and dropped 61. Then 51 the game after that. Then 42 in the final bubble game with the playoffs on the line. Lillard was the ultimate leader and willed his team to the play-in series, and that’s what makes him MVP of the seeding games.
Dan Feldman: James Harden was more consistently good and even sometimes great. But nobody hit higher levels than Lillard, who stepped up in the biggest moments to lead Portland into the play-in with the eighth-place advantage. Lillard set an emotional tone for a team constantly vulnerable of falling from the playoff race, and he delivered on the court with brilliant offense. He wasn’t perfect, but he went to great lengths to ensure the Trail Blazers met their goal. That’s the bubble MVP.

All-Bubble teams

First team

Kurt Helin Dan Feldman
Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers) Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
Devin Booker (Suns) James Harden (Rockets)
T.J. Warren (Pacers) Devin Booker (Suns)
Luka Doncic (Mavericks) T.J. Warren (Pacers)
James Harden (Rockets) Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

Second team

Kurt Helin Dan Feldman
Jayson Tatum (Celtics) Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets)
Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
DeMar DeRozan (Spurs) Paul George (Clippers)
Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks) Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks)

Kurt Helin: It was difficult leaving Antetokounmpo off the first team, he played brilliantly but his team was in cruise control (plus he took himself out of the last game by headbutting Moe Wagner). A few players such as Fred VanVleet and Michael Porter Jr. also almost made the cut.

Dan Feldman: Lillard, Harden, Booker and Warren were first-team locks. Antetokounmpo was absolutely dominant when he wanted to be, which was limited with the Bucks locking up the No. 1 seed early. Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, Chris Paul, Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet were among the contenders for the final second-team spots.

Coach of the Bubble

Kurt Helin Dan Feldman
Monty William (Suns) Monty William (Suns)

Kurt Helin: Every young team talked about it heading into the restart (and developing teams not invited to the restart begged for the same opportunity): Using the bubble games as a chance for a young core to grow and take a step forward. Except teams like Sacramento and New Orleans didn’t do that. Phoenix, behind Monty Williams did — they became the story of the bubble at 8-0. Devin Booker exploded and got himself in MVP talk, Deandre Ayton played brilliantly, and the Suns came from six-games back of Memphis to almost make the playoffs. Williams set the Suns up to be a playoff team in the West next season.

Dan Feldman: Phoenix went 8-0! That alone is pretty darned impressive, and the context reflects even more favorably on Williams. The Suns entered the bubble with the lowest playoff odds among the continuing 22 teams. Needing to make up 2.5 games and – more significantly – jump four (!) teams, Phoenix could have easily arrived unmotivated and ripe for distraction. Instead, Williams had the Suns playing fearlessly, cohesively and joyously. Williams even leaned heavily on his young players rather than his veterans, taking excellent advantage of a player-development opportunity and positioning Phoenix to ascend next season.