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.

Report: Celtics “most likely” offer Jayson Tatum a max contract after season

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This should not be a surprise.

Jayson Tatum is a cornerstone of the Celtics now and going forward: 23.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game, an efficient 56.2 true shooting percentage, a shot creator, an athletic finisher at the rim, and a guy who shot 39.8 percent from three. Tatum was an All-Star in his third season and will draw third-team All-NBA votes (whenever those votes happen).

Tatum is eligible for an extension to his rookie contract after this season. Is he worth a full max contract? Yes, especially considering he is 22 and still improving by leaps each season.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on SportsCenter the Celtics are expected to offer Tatum the max (hat tip Bleacher Report).

“If Jayson Tatum is the superstar that they envisioned when they began this whole rebuilding process when they traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for all of those draft picks hoping to land a player like this, we could see ‘Glory Days’ for the Celtics again. But it’s very much up in the air, and I’m gonna tell ya, they’re gonna have to pay him like it because after this season ends, he is going to get most likely a max contract. They’re going to bet that he becomes that player.”

It’s fair to argue that max contracts should be reserved for true alphas, true No. 1s and maybe a few No. 2 players on a team, and that Tatum has yet to prove he is one of those. Boston would be betting he becomes that player — but right now that looks like a good bet. More importantly, last summer the Celtics locked up Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown on four-year contracts, sign Tatum and the Celtics have a core that will have them at or near the top of the East for years.

Exactly what a max contract will look like this coming off-season after the coronavirus hit to the league’s finances is another question, one nobody has an answer to right now. Under the old cap, it would have been $181 million over five years (and if he made All-NBA teams it could jump to $218 million), but those numbers don’t apply to the new reality. Even if Tatum signs the max offer this summer, he will make his $9.9 million next season then be paid whatever the max is for him starting in the 2021-22 season (and again, it’s impossible to say what the league’s finances will be at that point).

Pay the man his money.  Expect Boston to make the offer whenever the offseason arrives.

Zion Williamson’s attorneys work to avoid him answering questions about improper benefits at Duke

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MIAMI (AP) — Attorneys for NBA rookie Zion Williamson seek to block his former marketing agent’s effort to have the ex-Duke star answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils.

In a Florida court filing last week, Williamson’s attorneys say those questions are “nothing more than a fishing expedition aimed at tarnishing Williamson’s reputation” and designed to “maximize potential embarrassment and media coverage in an attempt to improperly gain settlement leverage.”

“Plaintiffs’ irrelevant and invasive requests are designed to harass and not calculated to lead to discovery of relevant evidence,” Friday’s filing states.

It is the latest exchange in the fight over the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick’s endorsement potential.

Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford filed her lawsuit last summer in Florida, accusing Williamson and the agency now representing him of breach of contract. Williamson filed his own lawsuit a week earlier in North Carolina to terminate a five-year contract with Prime Sports after moving to Creative Artists Agency LLC.

Ford’s attorneys had submitted questions this month asking whether the New Orleans Pelicans rookie or anyone on his behalf sought or accepted “money, benefits, favors or things of value” to sign with Duke. Those filings – offering no evidence of wrongdoing by Williamson or his family – sought answers within 30 days to establish facts under oath in the pretrial discovery process.

Williamson’s attorneys seek a stay while appealing the December denial of their motion to dismiss the Florida case based on lack of jurisdiction, or a protective order as an alternative.

At the heart of the dueling lawsuits over Williamson’s marketing rights is this: Williamson says the contract he signed with Prime Sports is illegal under North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act (UAAA) because Ford was not registered with North Carolina to negotiate with amateur athletes (which Zion was at the time, having just played for Duke). Ford and Prime dispute that, saying this was a legal and binding negotiation.

One key reason NBA may return with 22 teams: Players want regular-season games

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Nothing is set in stone about an NBA return — at least not until next Thursday — but momentum seems to be building behind a plan that would bring 22 teams to the Orlando bubble.

That plan brings every team within six games of the playoffs when the season was halted into the competition, a total of 22 teams (13 from the West and nine from the East, the playoff teams plus Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Washington). There would be some regular-season games played, likely five to eight, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds, then the playoffs with full seven-game series each round. Exactly what that play-in tournament would look and if the NBA would stick with the conference playoff alignment or seed 1-16 is up in the air (although the conference alignment seems to have more backing).

Why that plan? For one, it gets more cities and more fan bases involved — and it happens to bring Zion Williamson and the Pelicans into the mix, a big television draw. It also could help a few teams reach a 70-game broadcast threshold with local broadcasters.

Mostly, however, the players want it because they get some games under them before the playoffs start, something Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on at ESPN.

Regardless of how many teams are ultimately included in the playoffs, the National Basketball Players Association has consistently stressed that it wants several regular-season games to be played prior to the start of the playoffs, sources said. That has been a prevailing sentiment among several contending teams that prefer a tuneup before beginning the postseason, sources said.

A lot of players — influential players — have pushed for some regular season or meaningful games before the playoffs start. It’s about health, as trainers told us at NBC Sports, go from zero to 100 jumping straight into the playoffs and teams are asking for injuries. Players understand that.

Maybe only 20 teams end up in Orlando, that plan is on the table as well, but either way expect some regular-season games before the playoffs start. If the powerful players want it to happen, it will.

PBT Podcast: 2020 NBA Mock Draft crossover podcast, Part Deux

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We’re back at it… and not just drinking beer during a podcast. Although we do that, too.

For the third consecutive season, Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk and I collaborated for a first-round mock draft. Rob knows the prospects better than anyone; I provide some knowledge about what the teams might be looking for. The result is a unique listening experience breaking down who will be picked where based on fit.

The first ten picks can be found over on the College Basketball Talk feed.

Here we finish off the lottery and run through the entire rest of the first round.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.