Baseline to Baseline recaps: Pacers, Bulls get together for shootout

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while building a nuclear fusion reactor in your garage like any normal teenager….

Pacers 111, Bulls 101: If you were expecting a defense struggle between two of the top three defenses in the Association… well, sorry. There wasn’t a lot of defense and fur the Bulls, if they are not defending they are going to struggle because they can’t score with teams. Not even the Pacers. With Joakim Noah out the Bulls had matchup problems and didn’t have the size to defend David West, who finished with 29. Paul George added 23 and hit the dagger for the Pacers while George Hill was hot to start (7-of-7) and had 22 on the night. Marco Belinelli led the Bulls with 24.

Thunder 112, Mavericks 91: This was an old-school beat down. After a tight first 9 minutes or so the Thunder went on a 7-0 run when their bench first entered the game and then it was on. In the second quarter the Thunder went on a 27-8 run right about when Russell Westbrook came back into the contest, he had 11 of his 24 in the second quarter. Eventually the Thunder led by as many as 33 in the second half and it was never close. Kevin Durant had 19 points and 10 rebounds. The only even remote bright spot for Dallas was the return of Dirk Nowitzki, but he shot just 3-of-11 on the night.

Knicks 99, Pistons 85: It turns out Kyle Singler and Rodney Stuckey cannot really guard Carmelo Anthony effectively. Who knew? ‘Melo had 27, the Knicks took charge with an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter and they never looked back as they cruised to their fifth straight win. Amar’e Stoudemire had 20 points and J.R. Smith added 16. Jose Calderon made his Pistons debut and had 15 points, but this wasn’t Detroit’s night.

Heat 99, Bobcats 94: It was LeBron James’ world, everyone else was just living in it — he had 31 points on 13-of-14 shooting and he took every single one of his shots in the paint. He simply bullied his way into the paint all night and Charlotte could not stop him. LeBron added 8 assists and 8 rebounds on a night where he played just about as well as a person could. Chris Bosh added 23.

Charlotte actually led this game by a point inside 8 minutes left, led by Ramon Sessions (18) and Ben Gordon (16) who had good games off the bench. But the Heat went on an 8-0 run to retake the lead for good. And on a night like this you knew LeBron was not going to let the Heat lose.

Wizards 98, Clippers 90: With Chris Paul and Blake Griffin out injured the Clippers lost again, — their seventh loss in nine games. The Clippers fall to 1-3 on their big road trip and are coming back to the pack in the West (where Memphis, Golden State and Denver are). We will see how the team responds to some adversity now.

Wizards got off to 19-6 lead to open the game and held that lead until the third quarter when the Clippers made a 17-2 run to retake the lead. That’s when Martell Webster made his presence felt, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the quarter as the Wizards retook the lead. The Wizards sealed the game with an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter fueled by Clippers turnovers. Nene and Garrett Temple added 15 points a piece. Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 28.

Sixers 78, Magic 61: What did you expect? The Magic were without Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo and of course Glen Davis. They probably asked Jacque Vaughn to suit up. The Sixers raced out to a 22-6 lead and while the game was ugly the rest of the way the Sixers never gave up the lead. Spencer Hawes had 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Nick Young added 15 points for Philly.

Trail Blazers 100, Timberwolves 98: If you watched most of this game you wouldn’t recognize the final score — it certainly wasn’t a pretty game but the Trail Blazers were in control of it. Minnesota scored just 38 first half points and was a total mess while LaMarcus Aldridge looked every bit the All-Star with 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Then came the final minutes, when Minnesota went on a 14-2 run and almost stole the game. They got it down to one point but Aldridge hit a key bucket to make it three with 27 seconds left. Of course, Aldridge missed the free throws that would have iced the game with 6.7 seconds left, giving the Timberwolves one last shot at it. They went to Dante Cunningham, who had the hot hand with 23 points on the night, but he came up just short. And Portland escapes with the win.

Jazz 98, Kings 91 (OT): Apparently Utah wants to show it can host a Super Bowl t0o — they had some lighting issues at the start of the game. Once they got going it looked like Utah would pull away with this in the second quarter but Sacramento closed the first half with a 9-0 run and we had a game. In the overtime Randy Foye had 6 of his 20 points and Paul Millsap 4 of his 14 to secure the win. The Kings could really have used DeMarcus Cousins late in this one but he got ejected just before the half. The real key for Utah in this was the 41 points they got from the bench, led by Alec Burks with 14 and Derrick Favors with 13.

Report: Brad Stevens’ dedication to Gordon Hayward caused chemistry issues with Celtics

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Things are not all well in Boston. The Celtics are already in a free fall when it comes to free agency, and it’s not yet July. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are reportedly poised not to return to TD Garden next year. Now, a team that was aiming for the NBA Finals next year could be in serious trouble.

Things have quickly fallen apart for Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, who are left with a team that also has an apparent enemy in one of the biggest agencies in Klutch Sports. Boston reportedly backed out of serious offers in trade negotiations with the New Orleans Pelicans in part because they felt as though Klutch client Anthony Davis would not re-sign after one year.

Basketball is a game of chemistry, and the Celtics seemed to lose theirs over the course of the year. At least externally, it appeared Boston was disintegrating. Now, according to a report from Jackie MacMullan, we have some confirmation of this rift.

Via NBC Sports Boston:

“You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could, but I really think that’s where it started,” she said. “They were force feeding him on his teammates, Brad [Stevens] knew Gordon well, he wanted to get his confidence back.

“I would contend that Brad Stevens would have done that for any player on that roster that had a catastrophic injury, he would want to fill him with that same confidence, but that’s not what happened,” MacMullan continued. “He gave the benefit of the doubt over and over to a player that wasn’t ready, to a guy who had history with him, and it rankled that locker room, and it bothered that locker room.”

The Celtics have a roster on paper that should have been good enough to get them deep into the playoffs. But Hayward returned and never really looked like himself, and Stevens devoting his faith to his former Butler Bulldog was obviously misplaced.

Chemistry issues for Boston we’re not all to blame on Stevens and Hayward. Irving is perennially mercurial. Given a situation where he got his own team (whatever that means) he didn’t lead the way folks were expecting.

Unless something drastic can be done — and don’t put it past Danny Ainge to get wild — Boston could be taking a step back next season.

Their saving grace, ironically, could be a fully healthy Hayward who has more reign to do what he wants and an unrestricted role on offense. We’ll see how that goes.

Report: Kawhi Leonard focusing on Clippers in free agency

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Kawhi Leonard might not be with the Toronto Raptors next season. That much has been apparent ever since the Raptors traded for Leonard last year, but the team did just win the 2019 NBA Finals. You know what they say: winning fixes everything.

But we are now into the thick of the NBA offseason, and that means crazy rumors and a wild game of Free agency musical chairs. Leonard could end up in many places, including Toronto. But the talk all along has been how Leonard prefers to land in Los Angeles.

The only problem for fans in L.A. county? His landing spot is unlikely to be the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard’s focused on Los Angeles but only with the Clippers. In Wojnarowski’s opinion, Leonard is not interested in joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis as a third wheel on a superstar, big three type of Team. Instead, Leonard wants to have his own team match the way he does in Toronto. That could easily be the case with the Clippers.

Via ESPN:

The Lakers are trying to open up enough cap space for a third max-level player, which Leonard obviously is. But if things stand how they are now, Rob Pelinka and the Lakers will need to go elsewhere to find a third star to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Obviously the Lakers would be better suited by using their cap space to fill out their roster around their two superstars, but they probably won’t do that. In the end, Leonard focusing on the Clippers seems like the right choice.

Report: Lakers trying to open max salary slot with Anthony Davis trade

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The Los Angeles Lakers have Anthony Davis, but they aren’t done tweaking the details of the deal yet. Depending on when Davis’ trade gets completed, Los Angeles will open up myriad financial options for their free agency extravaganza this summer. Now it appears the Lakers might be trying to get a third team involved to help them grab max cap space.

We’ve explained the cap ramifications as the deal stood with the New Orleans Pelicans already. On one end, Los Angeles could wait until July 30. After renouncing some free agents, this would leave L.A. with $32 million in cap space. If they complete the deal on July 6, and if Davis waives his $4 million trade kicker, they end up with somewhere between $24 — $28 million.

Now it appears the Lakers will go for the full max slot space.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers are looking to ship out some of its younger players — turning the Davis trade with New Orleans into a 3-team deal — to satisfy some CBA rules that allow them to get to that mark. The Lakers have made Mo Wagner, Jemerrio Jones, and Isaac Bonga available.

Via Twitter:

Los Angeles is also reportedly looking to grab some second round picks, which allow for cheap contracts that they can use to fill out its roster while going over the salary cap.

This is a bold endeavor.

No doubt the front office in L.A. looked at the trade the Toronto Raptors made for Kawhi Leonard this past season feel as though adding more stars to its roster cannot possibly hurt. The only problem is that the Raptors already had a team good team unit in place when they traded for Leonard. Los Angeles won’t have any players of note when they head into this season, even if they are able to sign a third star to go with LeBron James and Davis.

It’s really going to be difficult to see how Davis, James, and a third star will carry this team if there is a steep drop-off between the bench rotation. Even considering veteran minimum signings — which always happen for championship-contending teams — this team needs more role players.

This is an extremely Los Angeles thing to do, and this thing just keeps getting more complicated the farther we get into the NBA offseason. It’s not even July yet, and it’s already wild in the Association.

Report: Al Horford not returning to Boston, will sign elsewhere this summer

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Boston’s disastrous season — and off-season — just keeps getting worse. Anthony Davis is a Laker, Kyrie Irving is out the door and now this.

Al Horford opted out of the $30.1 million the Celtics owed him this summer, but that was expected. A lot of people around the league also assumed he would begin negotiating with Boston to return for a longer contract, worth more money overall but a little less per year, that would give him some security.

He is going to get that security elsewhere, reports Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

The buzz from around the league is this is more about Boston not wanting to pay him and do a retooling of their roster around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown than it is Horford wanting out. Either way, it puts an outstanding player on the market.

Horford is 33 years old and teams may be concerned about the final year of a four-year contract, but he is kind of glue big man who can do everything well that could fit a lot of places and lift teams up to the next level. Horford can play in the post, shot 36 percent from three, sets good screens, is a good defender and role player, and just seems to have no holes in his game. That versatility makes him incredibly valuable.

Horford is going to get paid this summer — not max money, but close enough to it to make him happy — and some team is going to get a lot better when they do it.