Baseline to Baseline recaps: For one night at least Celtics look fine post-Rondo

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while thinking you may have finally found the perfect job

Suns 92, Lakers 86: Ouch. You can apply that one word sentence to Dwight Howard’s shoulder, he left the game midway through the fourth quarter and did not return, seeming to aggravate his torn labrum. Or, you can apply the first sentence to the Lakers fourth quarter. Either way it was Michael Beasley’s world and the Lakers just lived in it. Brett Pollakoff broke the game down for us.

Heat 105, Nets 95: Note to Reggie Evans — you may not want to insult LeBron James, you might make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Evans did, saying the Heat’s lockout title didn’t count, and LeBron responded with 24 points and 9 rebounds in the Heat win. Miami owned the second half, and we broke all the details of the game down.

Celtics 99, Kings 81: If you want to ease into the rest of the season without your star point guard, the Kings are a good team to do it against. The Kings hung around for a quarter and a half in the Garden and then the Celtics bench started the onslaught with a 16-2 run — Boston scored 37 points in the second quarter and the rout was on. That second quarter was about as good as Boston can play and when they play like that they can threaten any team. It’s a blueprint for what they want to do the rest of the season.

Paul Pierce had 16 points to lead six Celtics in double figures. Tyreke Evans had 19 for the Kings. One thing of concern for the Celtics — Jared Sullinger left the game in the first half with back spasms not to return. He battled back issues in college. It’s just something to watch.

Bulls 104, Bucks 88: There are nights Nate Robinson can shoot you out of a game, and then there are the nights he can pretty much win you a game. Wednesday night was in the latter category for the Bulls — Robinson had 16 second quarter points, half of the 32 the Bulls put up in the period as they pulled away for a comfortable win. It wasn’t just Robinson off the bench, he had help from Jimmy Butler who has been playing well of late and had 18 in this one. Ersan Ilyasova led the Bucks with 18 points but needed 18 shots to do it.

Clippers 96, Timberwolves 90: Blake Griffin was dominating. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds through three quarters, and Minnesota looked hopeless to stop him.

But then the fourth quarter came and *woosh*, there Griffin went. Disappeared right out of thin air. In a close game down the stretch, he had no points and no shots attempts in the whole quarter. Just as it looked like Minnesota was about to steal a win despite their poor perimeter shooting, Griffin reappeared at just the right time with an impossibly tricky bank shot that served as the dagger.
—D.J. Foster

Pacers 98, Pistons 79: This was a shorthanded Pistons team with Tayshaun Prince — the last member of the 2004 championship team still on the roster — and Austin Daye out for this game and Jose Calderon not in yet. But this game really just followed the trends — the Pacers have now won 12 in a row at home while the Pistons are 5-17 on the road. Greg Monroe tried for Detroit (18 points) but the Pistons couldn’t handle the Pacers size — Roy Hibbert had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Tyler Hansbrough added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Knicks 113, Magic 97: This was close in the first half because the Magic back court was hot — guards and 35 of Orlando’s 51 first half points. J.J. Redick started out 7-of-7, Jameer Nelson was 7-of-11 in the first half. It was still just a six-point Knicks lead after three quarters when the Knicks offense exploded for 34 points on 63 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. The onslaught wasn’t just one guy — 10 Knicks scored in the quarter, Steve Novak had the most points at 8. It was a team effort. For the game Tyson Chandler had 21 points (on 11 shots) and Carmelo Anthony had 20.

The big news for Orlando is that Glen Davis broke his foot and is most likely done for the season now.

Nuggets 118, Rockets 110: You knew this was going to be an up and down game and we weren’t disappointed (109 possessions, according to the NBA.com stats one of the fastest this season). It made the game entertaining. The Rockets averaged the fastest pace in the league so you thought they would be comfortable there and it showed — they never really pulled away but they led 85-77 with a minute left in the third quarter when the Nuggets went on a 24-3 run to take the lead and pull away for the win. That is five straight for Denver, which went 12-3 in January.

As you expect in these games there were some big offensive numbers: Danilo Gallinari scored 27 points (on 17 shots, plus he had 4 blocks), Kenneth Faried added 19, Ty Lawson 16, Andre Iguodala 15; for Houston Jeremy Lin had 22, James Harden and Chandler Parsons 21.

Spurs 102, Bobcats 78: Really, how did you think this game was going to end? The Spurs have won nine straight overall and 17 in a row at home. With the win, Gregg Popovich will coach the Western Conference All-Stars as the Spurs will have the best record in the West come the Sunday cut off. You can bet he’s thrilled, he’s much rather coach an exhibition game in Houston than be home sipping wine with friends and having three days off.

Sixers 92, Wizards 84: In the battle of Jrue Holiday vs. John Wall… nobody won, really. Holiday was better with 21 points but he needed 22 shots while Wall was 3-of-12 shooting. Holiday had six turnovers to Wall’s five.

Philadelphia took control of the game with a 13-3 run in the second quarter and when the Wizards made a run to make it close in the third the Sixers responded with a 17-5 run. Nick Young gunned his way to 18 for Philly. Emeka Okafor had another strong night for Washington with 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Hawks 93, Raptors 92: The Raptors were shorthanded — Jose Calderon and Ed Davis had been shipped out and Rudy Gay had yet to arrive, but they still put up a real fight. In fact, they should have had free throws to win.

Atlanta went ahead on a pretty play where Al Horford set a screen off the ball for Kyle Korver, Horford’s defender Aaron Gray tried to cut off a pass to Korver at the arc so Horford rolled and flashed to the paint, Josh Smith had the ball at the top of the arc and passed to Horford in the paint for a dunk. But Toronto had time for a final shot.

Kyle Lowry tried to drive the lane but Al Horford rejected it, but the Raptors recovered and Alan Anderson missed a jumper with 4.9 seconds left, but DeMar DeRozan got the offensive board. He went up and was fouled by Horford but there was no call. It is official a block, Horford gathered the ball and tossed it down the court, and that was the ballgame.

Jazz 104, Hornets 99: Ugly wins count the same as pretty ones. The Jazz will take this, it wasn’t a dominant performance against a team on the second night of a back-to-back and missing its best player (Eric Gordon was out resting his knee), but it’s a win nonetheless. The Jazz front line was strong — Paul Millsap had 25 points and Al Jefferson added 22.

The Jazz carried over some of their 45-point loss to the Rockets and were down early, but they bounced back with an 11-2 run in the second and eventually took a lead.

Report: Gregg Popovich met with Kawhi Leonard in San Diego

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Don’t count the San Antonio Spurs out of the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes just yet.

We have been waiting on pins and needles to see whether or not Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would meet with the apparently disgruntled Leonard this week before San Antonio approaches Thursday night’s NBA draft.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania, Leonard and Popovich met on Tuesday night in San Diego where Leonard has been working out.

Via Twitter:

For what it is worth, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reporterd that Popovich has not yet met with Leonard, but is traveling to Southern California to meet with the Spurs forward. Even further, Leonard has reportedly requested a trade to Los Angeles from the Spurs, specifically to the Lakers.

Via ESPN:

Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.

Leonard had told confidants that he did not want to sit down with Popovich and has been purposely difficult for the Spurs to reach recently. Among the issues, Leonard is angry over what he believes was the Spurs’ mishandling of a quad injury, and remains irate with public comments out of teammate Tony Parker and Popovich that he felt were not supportive of him, league sources said.

We had to know this was coming. San Antonio wasn’t going to let Leonard dictate the terms of his departure from Texas all by himself. Although Leonard has put the Spurs in a tough situation given his reported open request to play in Los Angeles, no doubt both parties would be better off from a basketball perspective if they were together. San Antonio apparently doesn’t want to make a deal with a Western Conference team, either.

Since the Spurs were trying to get in touch with Leonard before Thursday’s big selection night, it could be a signal that Leonard is on the move. Several teams, including the Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers are rumored to be interested in Leonard’s services.

Rumor: Cavaliers could have trade interest in Kemba Walker

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to do everything in their power to retain LeBron James. They are also doing everything they can do to prepare themselves for if James decides to leave Cleveland once and for all.

Last week we heard rumors about how the Cavaliers were trying to prepare an offer to snag Kawhi Leonard away from the San Antonio Spurs. That move could be seen either as an intent to entice James to stay, or as a replacement for The King.

Now, we have rumor that the Cavaliers could be interested in acquiring an Eastern Conference point guard, presumably to help LeBron next season.

According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers have inquired to the Charlotte Hornets about the availability of point guard Kemba Walker.

Walker, 28, just became the Hornets all-time leading scorer this last season. The University of Connecticut product has just one year left on his current deal at $12 million, and could be both a good rental for a season as a means to bolster another James Finals run, or as a focal piece moving forward.

As is the issue with any package for Leonard, a trade to the Cavaliers from Charlotte for Walker really depends on what a third trade partner can bring into the mix. Not many of Cleveland’s young players have performed well enough to be used as trade bait for marquee guys. That necessarily means that Kevin Love will be the main trade bait, and it is tough for many teams to have interest in the sharp-shooting forward given many already have that position filled.

We are just 48 hours away from the 2018 NBA Draft and no doubt rumors like this will continue to heat up as we get closer to 4 p.m. Eastern on Thursday night.

Michael Porter Jr. compares himself to Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo

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It has been rumored that Michael Porter Jr could be the player the Sacramento Kings draft at No. 2 overall on Thursday night in the 2018 NBA Draft. Meanwhile, according to Porter himself, there is good reason for his sudden leap up the draft boards.

Speaking on CBS Sports Radio on Monday, Porter said that he thought the players he most compared to right now were Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Tracy McGrady.

Of course, the context here is that Porter was prompted to give a current NBA comparison, and as a shooter and physical player, he was unlikely to compare himself to a role player. Still, it’s a bold statement from Porter to say that he is akin to the second best player in the league at this moment. Durant has a skill set that hasn’t been replicated or really seen in the NBA, so it’s tough for anyone to really compare themselves to him.

Here is the quote, transcribed thanks to Deadspin:

Right now, I’m a little, I’m a mix of Giannis and KD. You know, I like going to the hole a little more than KD does, I like bumping into people a little more physical than KD. But I also, you know I like to shoot the ball more than Giannis. So that’s what I like to compare myself to. Then also Tracy McGrady. I get compared to him a lot and I like that one a lot too. You know, those are three amazing players. So it doesn’t feel bad to be in the same conversation as them.

In a recent interview with Dime Magazine, Porter said that he thinks Durant is the best player in the league, particularly when he plays against LeBron James. So really, Porder compared himself to the best player in the league.

The Missouri product has a litany of both character and injury questions. Rumors are abound about how well he will fit into an NBA locker room, and he famously decamped to Missouri Lorenzo Romar was fired in Washington.

Porder sat out most of the year with a nagging back injury, and had to call off some of his draft workouts because of a hip issue. Porter has tried to downplay his injury concerns, and has said that former Portland Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy told him to remain patient through injury.

The draft is less than 48 hours away, and most believe that taking Porter at No. 2 is a huge risk for the Kings. We will see just how confident Sacramento is about Porter’s ability to become an NBA teammate and stay healthy here soon enough.

Michael Jordan will still have input on Hornets draft day decisions

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan hired proven general manager Mitch Kupchak this offseason to help turn around a franchise mired in mediocrity since he became the Charlotte Hornets’ majority owner eight years ago.

But that doesn’t mean the highly competitive Jordan won’t have input on personnel decisions, beginning with the NBA draft on Thursday night.

Kupchak said in a pre-draft news conference Tuesday that he’ll have final say in who the Hornets select before quickly adding, “well, with the exception of one person – and obviously that’s ownership.”

Kupchak has won 10 NBA championships, including seven as an executive with the Los Angeles Lakers – so he knows a thing or two about building a winning roster. But he’s quickly learning that Jordan, who many consider the best NBA player ever, is still very much a hands-on owner when it comes to the players he employs.

And Kupchak understands that.

“There is a huge business component to our relationship,” Kupchak said.

Kupchak said he has communicated with Jordan on the phone and via text throughout the draft evaluation process. The 55-year-old Jordan arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina on Monday and the two have been studying tape on potential draft picks since.

The Hornets, who have failed to make the playoffs three of the past four seasons, have the 11th overall pick in the draft.

Kupchak has known Jordan since he was a freshman at the University of North Carolina.

However, Kupchak said that while they both are former Tar Heels, he never had considered Jordan a friend prior to being hired this past offseason to replace Rich Cho as Hornets general manager.

Since then they have had dinner together and gotten to know each other a little more.

He said the relationship has changed for the better.

“Hopefully when all is said and done, our other relationship, which is our friend relationship continues to grow and is not altered in any way,” Kupchak said. “There are no favors being done here. We’re friends and I think we’ll remain friends, but the bottom line in this business is success and winning games.”

Kupchak was rather forthcoming in the team’s pre-draft press conference Tuesday, saying the does not expect to trade the 11th overall pick.

He also said he expects that the handful of top-notch big men will be off the board by the time the Hornets make their selection.

“Right now I think the best player on the board is the player we are going to go after – and I’d expect that player to be a guard or a wing,” Kupchak said. “… I think we expect that we will be looking at guards and wings, but we will see.”