Baseline to Baseline recaps: Sixers get win despite Vince Carter heroics

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching a Christmas lights show timed out to “Gangnam Style”

Pacers 79, Lakers 77: Sometimes you watch a game and think neither team deserves to win it. That was this game. It was ugly. But despite 40 from Kobe Bryant it was a George Hill high-arcing layup that won Indy the game, and we broke it all down right here.

Sixers 100, Mavericks 98: This game was decided in the middle of the fourth quarter — it was 81-81 with 8:30 remaining when the Mavericks turned the ball over on six consecutive possessions and that led to a 12-0 Sixers run and a lead Philly would never relinquish.

It seemed over, Philly up seven inside two minutes to go when Vince Carter happened. First he drained a ridiculously deep three, about five feet behind the arc. After a defensive stop for Dallas, the next trip down Carter had a spinning driving layup. Suddenly the lead was just two with 17 seconds left. Jrue Holiday, who had 18 points and was good most of the night, had two possessions where he over-dribbled and got no good shot. He did it again and with time running out Dallas had one last shot to win. Dallas got the ball to Carter but Philly wisely doubled-teamed him, so he passed and with some nice ball movement the Mavs found O.J. Mayo in the lane and he was fouled

Mavs double Carter, two passes to cutting O.J. Mayo who was fouled on a bad reach by Holiday. Two free throws to tie it. Mayo missed first, intentionally missed second, Dallas rookie Jae Crowder actually got the rebound had a shot at a three to win but just missed.

Evan Turner had 22 points on 13 shots for Philly.

Rockets 117, Raptors 101: This game was not exactly a defensive struggle — the Rockets shot 53 percent overall and hit 13-of-26 threes. The Rockets put the nail in this at the start of the third quarter when James Harden hit two threes — he had 24 points and a career-best 12 assists. Toronto, who has struggled on defense all season, let the Rockets put of points at a 124.2 points per 100 possessions pace. The bright spots for Toronto were rookie Terrence Ross, who had his best game as a pro with 19 points, and Andrea Bargnani who had 21 points on 12 shots.

Suns 91, Cavaliers 78: It was the second night of a back-to-back and the fourth game in five nights for Cleveland and it showed — they hung tight until late in the third quarter when a 14-0 run turned a two point deficit into a comfortable win. The Suns pushed the pace and ran during hat stretch and Cleveland just could not keep up. Goran Dragic had 19 points, Michael Beasley added 15. If Cavs fans want a bright spot, Anderson Varejao totally outplayed Marcin Gortat

Timberwolves 97, Kings 89: The Timberwolves led this one from the second quarter on, but they never pulled away so it was interesting at the end. Kevin Love put up a line like we expect from him — 23 points, 24 rebounds — and that included a prayer that was answered in the final minute solidifying the Minnesota lead. Love needed to hit that shot because the Kings zone defense in the fourth quarter seemed to throw the Timberwolves off and make it a game. Nikola Pekovic added 16 for Minny. DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans each added 20 for the Kings. This snapped a five-game losing streak for Minnesota.

Russell Westbrook sneak-snacking steals show on NBA’s opening night

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NBA’s opening night was quite tame. The Celtics and Warriors won as expected, neither the 76ers nor Thunder mounting much of a challenge.

That allowed Russell Westbrookout with an injury — to have the most fun moment when he looked around deviously, turned to his side and ate something.

What did did Westbrook eat? Was he not supposed to be eating? Did he not want to share? Big questions remain unanswered surrounding this important incident.

Joel Embiid on 76ers-Celtics: ‘This is not a rivalry … They always kick our ass’

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The 76ers-Celtics rivalry is being renewed.

But it’s not there yet, according to Philadelphia center Joel Embiid.

The 76ers are 3-19 against Boston since drafting Embiid, and though that includes multiple tanking years, Philadelphia hasn’t fared much better since getting good. The 76ers went 2-7 against the Celtics last season, including 1-4 in their second-round playoff series. Philadephia followed that with a season-opening loss to the Celtics last night.

Embiid, via Matt Haughton of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“JJ (Redick) mentioned it earlier, this is not a rivalry,” Embiid said to reporters after the Sixers’ 105-87 season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics (see observations). “I don’t know our record against them but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.”

I appreciate Embiid’s directness. We can all see the problem. There’s no point denying it.

The subtext is Embiid’s motivation to change this status quo, and a lot of it does fall in Embiid. Al Horford has given him fits. Even Aron Baynes worked him at times last night. Embiid is talented and far younger than those two. He’ll eventually get there.

In the meantime, he’s not mincing words.

Vinsanity grinds into a 21st season, rare company in the NBA

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ATLANTA (AP) — Vince Carter feels like a 20-something again.

Always does when this time of year rolls around.

Never mind the specks of gray in his beard, all the wear and tear on his body, a resume that shows he entered the NBA the same year teammate Trae Young was born.

Carter has made it to another opening night. The thrill of a new season flows through those creaky ol’ bones. Once again, it all seems worthwhile: the monotonous practices, the tedious film sessions, the long plane flights, the grind of 82 games.

“If I had that old `heck, here we go again’ feeling, then I wouldn’t play,” Carter said Tuesday, having finished up practice with a few extra jumpers. “This is like I’m in my third, fourth, fifth year. I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m excited about playing. I still love playing. I still love competing. I still enjoy the traveling, the ups and downs of the league. That’s what it’s all about. It’s hard to let go.”

The league’s oldest player – Carter is 41 and will turn another year older in January – is back for his 21st season. That puts him on the cusp of some very exclusive company: Robert Parrish, Kevin Willis and Kevin Garnett are the only players to last that long in the NBA (Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki also has a chance to join the 21 Club this year).

Carter is hardly chasing a championship, signing on with a rebuilding Atlanta Hawks team that is years away from having a realistic shot at competing for a title. He’s here to mentor to a bunch of young players and serve as a virtual player-coach on a first-year staff led by Lloyd Pierce.

“When we have our locker room and on-the-bus debates and conversations, he’s on our side,” quipped Pierce, a rookie head coach who is only about eight months older than Carter. “He can relate a little closer to the coaching staff than he can with the players.”

Kent Bazemore, the last holdover from a 60-win team that reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2015, lost most of his golfing buddies – including Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver – when the Hawks embarked on a rebuilding plan that send them tumbling to 24-58 last season.

With Carter on the roster, Bazemore again has someone to tee it up with on off days.

“I’ve got a new golfing buddy,” said Bazemore, who at 29 is one of the oldest players on the roster not named Vince Carter. “I’m excited about that. (The younger players) haven’t gotten into it yet.”

As expected, Carter takes some good-natured ribbing from his teammates, a grandpa joke here, an “ain’t it past your bedtime” there.

But all in all, he seems to fit it quite nicely with all these kids.

“We have a lot in common, believe it or not,” Carter said, breaking into a smile. “I make it my business to know what’s going on in the millennial world.”

While expected to fill a largely backup role for the Hawks, Carter will be in the starting lineup when they open the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks. He’s subbing for power forward John Collins, a first-round pick in 2017 and one of those building blocks for Atlanta’s future, who is sidelined by an ankle injury.

Never mind that Carter is only 6-foot-6 and has spent his entire career at shooting guard and small forward.

Wherever he’s needed, he’s ready to give it a shot.

“I prepare myself in the summer for any situation,” Carter said. “I tell the coach first thing: `I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”‘

Young, the No. 5 overall pick and cornerstone of the Hawks’ makeover, looks forward to gleaning all he can from a player who was once one of the league’s brightest stars, a guy who threw down sick jams and averaged more than 20 points a game in 10 of his first 12 seasons.

Carter’s above-the-rim antics earned him a variety of nicknames – from “Vinsanity” to “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” – and a likely spot one day in the Basketball Hall of Fame, even though he’s never won a championship and there was griping early in his career about whether he was giving it his all.

These days, he’s a respected senior citizen, a player who draws nothing but awe for hanging on as long as he has, even though he’s bounced around to six teams in the past decade and hasn’t been a regular starter since 2012.

“He’s experienced so many things,” Young said. “I can go to him about anything and just ask him questions. He’s a future Hall of Famer. I’m just blessed to be around him and get advice from him.”

Carter hasn’t decided how long this ride will last.

Twenty-one years might be enough.

Then again, if he still feels that same sort of excitement that he’s feeling right now, he might go where no one has gone before in the NBA.

A 22nd season.

“At year 18, 19, I just said I’ll assess how I feel and the situation at the end of each year,” Carter said. “Just because I’m close to a bunch of different accomplishments, I don’t want to change my routine. I’ve had a lot of success doing it this way.”

With that, Carter hustled off to the locker room, the last guy to leave the court.

There was another flight to catch.

Another opening night to get to.

 

Nuggets agree to contract extension with coach Mike Malone

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Mike Malone was one of the names on the coaching hot seat lists this season. Not that his seat was warm just yet, a lot of pundits were high on his Nuggets (I predicted them to be fourth in the West), but after just missing the playoffs the past two years, if Denver got off to a slow start this season….

Cross Malone off your list, he just got a contract extension from the Nuggets.

This reportedly adds two years to his existing contract, so it now runs through 2021, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Expectations are high in Denver with a return to the playoffs the only acceptable outcome. The Nuggets have improved each season under Malone and won 46 games last season (that gets you in the dance most years). The Nuggets have a deep and impressive roster led by a top 20 NBA player in Nikola Jokic, a point guard in Jamal Murray who is poised to break out in his third season, plus quality rotation players such as Gary Harris and Paul Millsap.

Malone can earn that new contract — and get the team into the postseason — just by finally improving the Denver defense, which was 26th in the NBA last season. If they move up to the middle of the pack, with the Nuggets’ elite offense, they are in.

Whatever happens, Denver is a team to watch this season. And Malone isn’t going anywhere.