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: Chris Paul increasingly expected to start season with Thunder

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Last week, the Thunder had an expensive point guard who’s into his 30s and didn’t fit a team shifting into rebuilding without Paul George.

Same story now.

Oklahoma City traded Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul to acquire draft picks and shed long-term salary. Getting Paul as a player was of minimal concern. That’s why the Thunder worked with him to flip him. But a team like the Heat wanted draft picks just for taking the three years and $124,076,442 remaining on Paul’s contract.

So, Oklahoma City might hold onto Paul, after all.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The 34-year-old Paul is past his prime. But he’s still good. It’d be interesting to see him once again as his team’s best player after he spent so much time stuck in the corner watching James Harden.

Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams could form the core of a solid team this season. Paul can run an offense, and Adams (pick-and-roll) and Gallinari (pick-and-pop) offer nice complementary skills. If Andre Roberson is healthy or if a young player like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nerlens Noel, Terrence Ferguson or Hamidou Diallo takes the next step, Oklahoma City could make real noise.

The Thunder’s biggest challenge: They play in the loaded Western Conference. That makes it far more difficult to make the playoffs. But in terms of team quality, Oklahoma City could be in the thick of competitiveness.

If Paul and Gallinari stay healthy. That can’t be assumed, though Adams can do some dirty work to keep those two clean.

The Thunder have tremendous draft capital – so much of which is tied to the fates of the Clippers, Rockets, Heat and Nuggets. Oklahoma City could tank and improve its draft position further and sooner. But owning so many picks from other teams allows the Thunder to try to win now while simultaneously rebuilding. They don’t necessarily have to waste seasons in the basement just to build themselves back up.

It will probably be easier to trade Paul on Dec. 15. That’s when most free agents who signed this summer become eligible to be traded. Right now, too many teams have untradable players, making it difficult to match Paul’s high salary. Generally, the more of Paul’s contract the Thunder pay out, the easier it’ll be to trade him.

But if Paul declines sharply or gets hurt, his value could diminish even further. There’s risk in waiting, though an injured Paul might allow Oklahoma City to tank anyway.

The Thunder must also cut a few million of salary before the final day of the regular season to avoid the luxury tax. That’s a priority.

So, Oklahoma City will make some move – Paul or otherwise.

But it appears likely we’ll see Paul play for the Thunder. It’ll be a return to Oklahoma City after he played home games there with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets following Hurricane Katrina.

This isn’t the reunion Paul or the Thunder appeared to desire when the Westbrook trade was agreed upon. I still think it could be pretty cool.

Ben Simmons reverses course, withdraws from Australia’s Word Cup squad

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ben Simmons‘ new contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers came with bad news for Australian basketball fans: The Melbourne-born NBA All-star won’t play for the Boomers at the World Cup.

Hours after Simmons and the 76ers agreed to a $170 million, five-year contract extension on Tuesday, Simmons said he preferred to spend time with his new teammates in September instead of travelling to China for the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 World Cup.

“I wanted to let everyone know that after consulting with my representation, I’ve made the difficult decision to forego playing in the World Cup in China,” Simmons said in a statement.

“Ultimately, we decided it was best that I use the time in September to return to Philadelphia to acquaint myself with my new teammates and prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”

Simmons had been selected for Australia’s World Cup squad and had earlier indicated he planned to play the tournament in China.

He now plans to play only for the Boomers in two exhibition games against the United States in Melbourne on Aug. 22 and 24 at a stadium that is expected to be sold out – 50,000 fans – for each game. He also said the Olympics next year in Tokyo remain on his schedule.

“I will still be heading back home to Australia to host my camps as well as train and play with the Boomers in the upcoming exhibition games,” Simmons said. “I’m really excited about the talent we have on the Boomers squad, especially moving closer to 2020 where I will be honored and humbled to represent my country on the world’s biggest sporting stage at the Olympics in Tokyo.”

Simmons was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016. He made his NBA debut in the 2017-18 season and was the Rookie of the Year. He was an All-Star for the first time last season. He has averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists in his two seasons.

Australia’s World Cup lineup is set to feature San Antonio’s Patty Mills, Joe Ingles of Utah Jazz, Phoenix center Aron Baynes, Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova, former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut, Detroit center-forward Thon Maker and Simmons’ 76ers teammate Jonah Bolden.

 

Just a reminder, after draft and free agency Wizards have still not named official GM

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When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM back in April — to the joy of Wizards fans everywhere — it was expected they would have a new head of basketball operations in place by the draft.

Nope.

So by the start of free agency, to guide the Wizards through this tumultuous summer?

Nope.

Tommy Sheppard has been doing the job on an interim basis, and as Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today points out a lot of league talk in Las Vegas was about why Leonsis just hasn’t given Shepard the job.

Team executive after executive had the same question when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved top front-office job opening came up. “Why not just give Tommy the job?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been running basketball operations since owner Ted Leonsis decided not to bring Ernie Grunfeld back. Sheppard ran the draft, free agency and the Wizards’ Summer League team, but he doesn’t have the full-time job.

A couple of more prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at points. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

At this point, after Sheppard has built the team for this coming season, is Leonsis really going to bring in someone else?

The Wizards have decisions to make. This is a young roster not ready to be a threat in the East, but with Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall (likely out for the season after tearing his Achilles), they also are capped out. So far they have turned away calls from other teams about a Beal trade (nobody is calling about a Wall trade with his max contract extension just kicking in).

Come July 26 the Wizards can offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, both sides are talking and the offer is expected to be made. That’s when the big decision comes — if Beal doesn’t sign that offer the Wizards have to look at trading him. Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards, but there was plenty of informed league speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and may not sign the extension, essentially forcing his way out. It’s something to watch in the coming weeks.

It probably would be nice to have a locked-in head of basketball operations by then, but who knows what Leonsis will do.

Cameron Payne reportedly agrees to partially-guaranteed contract with Toronto

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Cameron Payne was the starting point guard at one point early in the season in Chicago (until Kris Dunn returned), it didn’t last long, and by the middle of the season he was waived. The Cavaliers picked him up in a limited role at the end of the season.

Payne played for Dallas at Summer League and needed to impress there to have a shot a roster spot for next season. He did, averaging 20 points per game on 51 percent shooting, and he had one 32-point game.

The Toronto Raptors will bring Payne and let him compete to be the third point guard, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Raptors have Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at the point, there are not a lot of minutes to be had there. However, both men are in the final year of their contracts. Plus, he brings some pregame dancing that every team needs.

The Raptors now have 16 potential NBA contracts coming into training camp, which means there will be cuts. The fact Payne has a decent guarantee his first year means he’s going to get a real look.

Payne, the No. 14 pick of the Thunder back in 2015, has struggled to find a fit in the NBA. While his skill set should fit the modern game, he doesn’t quite shoot or distribute well enough to earn a coach’s trust. He will try to change that with Nick Nurse.