Baseline to Baseline recaps: Pierce, Rondo lead Celtics to win

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching the Sandy relief concert and thinking the Who looked really old…

Celtics 117, Mavericks 115 (2OT): This game was fun. It entertained. Oh, no it wasn’t pretty at all — Dallas had 27 turnovers — but it had its moments. Like Dallas’ comeback from 14 down to make this game close. Like O.J. Mayo’s driving layup around Rajon Rondo and pulling and up-and-under on Kevin Garnett to send the game to a second overtime. Or like Rondo’s own driving layup in that second OT that really turned the tide.

Mayo had another big game, 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting — he’s starting to make a case he should be included on the West’s All-Star team. Vince Carter found the fountain of youth and added 20, while Shawn Marion came back from injury and 16.

Paul Pierce had 8 points in the second overtime (mostly from the free throw line) and finished with 34 points on 25 shots. Rajon Rondo had 16 points and 15 assists. Jeff Green had 15 points but needed 16 shots to get them. Dallas did a good job defensively and if it hadn’t been for the turnovers they would have won it.

Warriors 97, Heat 95: Golden State has been winning games but felt left out of the conversation of really good teams in the West. So they made a statement — and that was that they could win without Stephen Curry having a monster night (9 points) and without a super efficient night from their shooters (Klay Thompson had 27 points and was 5-of-13 from three). They gutted out a win. Golden State has five straight road wins now, they are 15-7 and you have to give them some credit.

And you have to check out Draymond Green’s game winner and a smart pass from Jarrett Jack.

Suns 82, Grizzlies 80: This is your upset of the night special and the dagger fell with a Goran Dragic shot. Just like we all expected. Brett Pollakoff broke this game for us.

Bulls 96, 76ers 89: With Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich out (actually the Bulls only had 8 players), it was Nate Robinson to start at the point for the Bulls and that sent Jrue Holiday into gunner mode — he had 26 points but needed 28 shots to do it. He took a lot of bad shots, which seemed to be the theme of this game. Chicago doesn’t have the firepower to pull away — Joakim Noah led them with 21 — but down one in the fourth quarter the Bulls rattled off a 7-0 run to take the lead. They then had another 8-2 run, they executed better late and got the win.

Nets 94, Raptors 88: It’s a wonder that the Raptors were able to compete at all in this one, let alone hang within a couple of possessions for most of the night given their depleted roster.

But the Nets were playing on the second night of a back-to-back after an emotional loss to the Knicks on Tuesday, so perhaps the general malaise against an inferior opponent was to be expected.

Ed Davis did everything he could for the Raptors, with 24 points and 12 rebounds on 11-of-13 shooting in 45 minutes of action. Jonas Valanciunas didn’t miss a shot, and finished 6-of-6 from the field. But the other six players in uniform couldn’t prevent a big third quarter from the Nets, which ultimately turned the game around and sealed it for Brooklyn.
—Brett Pollakoff

Jazz 99, Spurs 96: Mo Williams had missed a three 10 seconds earlier, but Paul Millsap got the offensive rebound and in the end Williams got one more shot — and buried the three as time expired to lift Utah over San Antonio. This was all about a late push for Utah, who was down but got a 9-1 in the final four minutes just to tie the game and give Williams a shot at heroics.

Millsap had a big line on the night, 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Al Jefferson added 21 points and Gordon Hayward had 19. Tim Duncan had 22 points and 21 boards for the Spurs.

By the way, Gregg Popovich ripped Danny Green for his defense on this last play, saying you can never step back on williams and give him room.

Pacers 96, Cavaliers 81: You could see a letdown game coming a mile away from this Cavaliers team, after going on the road to face the Pacers the night after Kyrie Irving returned from injury to lead Cleveland past the Los Angeles Lakers. It just took a little longer than most expected.

Cleveland actually came out strong, and led by 16 points late in the second period. But Indiana eventually showed up, and held the less-talented Cavaliers to just 23 second-half points.

Had C.J. Miles not dropped 28 points in 28 minutes for Cleveland, things might have been even more lopsided in favor of the Pacers.
—Brett Pollakoff

Hawks 86, Magic 80: Orlando has the ability to get you into low-scoring, grind-it-out contests, where the team hopes that execution late can help it to victory.

This was one of those games, but it’s tough to recover from a 15-point first quarter and a 34-point first half, no matter how much you make life miserable for your opponent.

The Magic cut a 16-point fourth quarter deficit down to six with just 2:10 remaining, but couldn’t pull any closer, and neither team scored in the game’s final 1:02.

Let’s just say that this one won’t exactly be sent to Springfield, Massachusetts for archiving.
—Brett Pollakoff

Rockets 99, Wizards 93: James Harden was back after missing a game with a sprained ankle and looked like his old self with 31 points on 20 shots. The Rockets led most of the way but it helped to have Chandler Parsons drop 11 of his 18 in the fourth. Washington was in this, actually taking a one-point lead in the third, but the Rockets immediately answered with a 15-2 run and never looked back. Bradley Beal dropped 20 for Washington.

Clippers 100, Bobcats 94: This makes it eight straight wins for the Clippers, a team people should start talking about as a potential contender in the West. Los Angeles led pretty much the entire way but give Charlotte credit for the fight — every time the Clippers started to pull away all game, the Bobcats clawed back. But never all the way back. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Matt Barnes each had 19 points, but Barnes got 11 of his in the fourth quarter.

Bucks 98, Kings 85: The Bucks led wire to wire in a game where the Kings were without DeMarcus Cousins (turns out you can’t punch a guy on the other team in the groin). That’s not to say the game wasn’t close, the Kings always seemed to be lurking, but when they started the fourth quarter 1-for-12 shooting, that pretty much did them in. Brandon Jennings scored 19 points, and Monta Ellis added 17 points and 11 assists for the victors. One bright spot for the Kings — Tyreke Evans was back and had 17 points.

Timberwolves 108, Nuggets 105: Minnesota took control of the game with a 12-5 run to start the fourth and were able to hang on for the win. A scrappy win because Kevin Love had an off night (3-of-17 shooting for 8 points). Nikola Pekovic led the Timberwolves 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting while Andrei Kirilenko added 18 points. Denver got the tempo up where they wanted it (100 possessions) and shot well (50.6 percent as a team) but Minnesota turned the ball over less, got more offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line more often. Minnesota also had J.J. Barea, who had 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Kenneth Farried had 26 points and 14 rebounds, Danilo Gallinari added 24. Denver got within three and had chances late but Ty Lawson had a key turnover inside 30 seconds left in the game, then missed (and put his foot on the line) trying to hit a game-tying three as the clock ran out.

Thunder 92, Hornets 88: The Hornets were playing well with their young roster (three rookies finished in double-digits scoring) and were up 11 late in the third quarter when Thunder coach Scott Brooks went with a small lineup off the bench — Reggie Jackson, Eric Maynor, Kevin Martin, Kevin Durant and Nick Collison. It worked, OKC went on an immediate 11-0 run and took the lead. Durant had 25 of his 35 in the second half and Jackson hit a key three. The Thunder had to work for this one but they got it.

As for the Hornets rookies, Brian Roberts had 16, Austin Rivers 12 and Anthony Davis finished with 11.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer and Thunder’s Billy Donovan win Coach of Year from peers

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder coach Billy Donovan
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The Bucks (high) and Thunder (low) entered the season on near-opposite ends of the pressure spectrum. Despite their radically different situations, both teams have experienced success this season for a common reason:

They were well-coached.

National Basketball Coaches Association release:

Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan are the 2020 recipients of the Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award, the National Basketball Coaches Association announced today.

The Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award recognizes the dedication, commitment and hard work of NBA Head Coaches and is presented annually to a Head Coach who helps guide his players to a higher level of performance on the court and shows outstanding service and dedication to the community off the court. It honors the spirit of Michael H. Goldberg, the esteemed long-time Executive Director of the NBCA, who set the standard for loyalty, integrity, love of the game, passionate representation and tireless promotion of NBA coaching. It is unique in that it is the only award voted upon by the winners’ peers, the Head Coaches of all 30 NBA teams. This year’s voting was based on games played from the start of the 2019-20 regular season through games played on March 11.

The depth of coaching excellence in the NBA is reflected in this year’s voting as 8 Head Coaches received votes. In addition to Budenholzer and Donovan, the following Coaches also received votes: Taylor Jenkins, Nate McMillan, Nick Nurse, Erik Spoelstra, Brad Stevens and Frank Vogel.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse was third in the race — and just one vote away from creating a three-way tie, sources said.

This is not the main Coach of the Year. That’s voted on by media and will be announced later. This in a new award created by coaches a few years ago.

Nurse remains favorite for the NBA’s recognized Coach of the Year. (He was our unanimous choice.) It’s surprising he didn’t win this award. But it’s also easy to see how fellow coaches would be reluctant to honor an up-and-comer who supplanted Dwane Casey, a coach beloved by his peers and who won this award while getting fired by the Raptors in 2018.

That shouldn’t take away from Budenholzer and Donovan, though. Both had strong seasons.

After turning the Bucks into an elite team last season – winning this award and the NBA’s official Coach of the Year – Budenholzer has Milwaukee looking even stronger this season. The Bucks’ defense is historically dominant, and their role players fit so well around Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Donovan got dealt a tricky hand – an all-time great point guard in Chris Paul who’s past his peak but still in his prime and a point guard of the future in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Donovan made it work while squeezing in another point guard in Dennis Schroder. Donovan’s versatility remains an asset for Oklahoma City.

Raptors rookie Terence Davis arrives to game with hole in mask

Raptors rookie Terence Davis
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The NBA – with threat of fine and suspension – reminded everyone inside the bubble to wear their masks.

Why issue that warning now?

Maybe because of Raptors rookie Terence Davis.

Davis arrived to Toronto’s win over the Lakers on Saturday with a hole in his mask.

Perhaps, it was inadvertent. Accidental rips happen. But it’s hard to give Davis the benefit of the doubt after his social-media activity:

Undrafted, Davis has a lot of confidence in himself. He earned that in basketball. If the cut were deliberate, he ought to give more credence to actual coronavirus experts.

Masks are highly important for the general population. We often don’t know whether we have coronavirus. Testing is insufficient, especially of asymptomatic cases. So, everyone in the outside world should wear a mask to reduce the spread.

On the other hand, NBA players – like Davis – can reasonably know they don’t have coronavirus. The NBA’s program of daily testing and no close contact with anyone outside the bubble is designed to ensure a coronavirus-free bubble. That’s why five-on-five basketball games – an otherwise dangerous activity – can be played safely.

However, masks between games are an extra layer of protection. What if a player – intentionally or not – comes into too close of contact with someone outside the bubble who has coronavirus? Masks would limit the spread of coronavirus within the bubble.

All coronavirus precautions should be measured through a cost-benefit lens. Wearing an intact mask can be unpleasant, and it’s somewhat superfluous for NBA players inside the bubble. But the health of everyone inside the bubble plus all the money at stake makes it an easy call.

Wear the mask, and wear it correctly.