Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Bobcats, Sessions end Celtics winning streak

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while looking at some really uncomfortable Valentines Day photos….

Bobcats 94, Celtics 91: A Celtics team on the second night of a back-to-back where the first game went three overtimes ran into a Bobcats that doesn’t have a lot going for it but does have young legs. And at the end of the game the fresh legs of the Bobcats went on a 7-0 run and got a game-winning jumper from the not quite so young Ramon Sessions.

For much of the night the Celtics couldn’t slow Bobcats big may Byron Mullens, who had 25 points and 18 rebounds. But with the game on the line late and the Celtics missing shots it was a Gerald Henderson three that got the Bobcats within one (he finished with 16). Then on the key play Sessions got a clean look at the 16 footer to win it when Avery Bradley seemed to take a misstep (tweaking something) which gave him space, and Sessions is too much of a pro to miss that shot.

Jeff Green had 18 points while Kevin Garnett added 16 points and 13 rebounds. The bigger news for Boston is Leandro Barbosa went down with what looked a whole lot like a season ending knee injury. We’ll know more Tuesday.

Spurs 103, Bulls 91: No Tim Duncan, no Manu Ginobili, no Tony Parker, no home court advantage — no problem. San Antonio’s winning machine just kept on rolling without their stars, as Kawhi Leonard dropped 26 points on Chicago’s vaunted wing defenders to lead the Spurs to a 103-89 victory.

Outside of Leonard being a little more aggressive in looking for his own shot, the Spurs didn’t do a heck of a whole lot differently than what they’d normally do with their stars. They ran shooters off screens in crisp well executed sets, rarely leaving themselves in a position where they had to attack Chicago’s defense directly off the dribble. The game really had a college basketball type feel to it, but the Spurs were sharper with their stuff. Chicago turned the ball over 19 times, and the Spurs ran away with the game with 29 points off turnovers.
—D.J. Foster

Nets 89, Pacers 84 (OT): This was a game played on Indiana’s floor at Indiana paces — it was an ugly, grinding, defensive game. And yet the Nets came away with the win even without Deron Williams (sitting out with ankle issues).

The Pacers could have had this one, they were up four (76-72) with just more than 1:30 left in the game, but they missed their final four shots. Then Joe Johnson forced OT with a little 13 footer. Once in overtime rookie Tyshawn Taylor knocked down a couple difficult shots to give the Nets the lead for good. The Pacers best players just could not knock down a shot — George Hill, Paul George and Roy Hibbert combined to shoot 8-of-39 on the night. Basically 20 percent. You don’t win a lot of games that way. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 25 wins.

Clippers 107, Sixers 90: Nick Young of the Sixers said it best, “It was like they practiced on us.” The Clippers came out with intense defensive pressure, got five steals in the first quarter and that got them out and running. And when they run the highlight reel dunks follow. Los Angeles attacked the rim with a vengeance all night. Chris Paul had 21 points and 11 assists, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford each added 20 points to the cause. Young did have 29 for the Sixers.

With this win, the Clippers finish their Grammy road trip 4-4.

Hawks 105, Mavericks 101: Josh Smith had 20 of his 26 points in the second half (plus he had 13 rebounds) and looked like the kind of guy you want to trade for in leading the Hawks to a come-from-behind win over the Mavericks. Here is how you know it was Smith’s night — he hit 4-of-5 from three-point range.

Dallas had their chance at the end. Down 99-98 with 30 seconds left Elton Brand made a nice defensive play and stripped Smith of the ball, and the Mavericks were off in transition. O.J. Mayo had the ball and seemed to be looking for his shot when a hustling Devin Harris stripped him from behind. At the other end, Smith was fouled and knocked down a couple free throws, so it was 101-98 Hawks but the Mavs weren’t dead yet. Well until Mayo turned the ball over again — he made a terrible pass to Vince Carter that was picked off by Jeff Teague. That was your ballgame. The bright spot for Dallas in this is Dirk Nowitizki started to look like his old self with 24 points.

Timberwolves 100, Cavaliers 92: You can’t leave Luke Ridnour open. I’m not joking, he’s a solid veteran NBA player and you can’t just leave him open because he’ll knock down shots. But the Cavaliers gave him good looks late and he scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Timberwolves to a win. The Timberwolves backcourt was key, they combined for 50 points on 21-for-36 shooting (58.3 percent). Minnesota got 16 points and 10 boards out of Nicola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio continues to look better and better with 13 points, 10 assists and 5 steals in this one. All-Star Kyrie Irving had 20 points and 7 assists.

Wizards 102, Bucks 90: Don’t sleep on the Wizards, this is four straight win. Washington took control of this game with a 22-7 second quarter run led largely by their bench and while they never pulled away they did lead the rest of the way to pick up the win. Bradley Beal was on fire with 28 but the real key for Washington was the play of center Nene, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds. John Wall was dishing with 10 assists to go with his 14 points. The Wizards are playing well.

Monta Ellis put up a good line for the Bucks — 24 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 7 steals. Meanwhile Mr. “I want a max contract” Brandon Jennings shot 3-of-17 from the floor.

Hornets 105, Pistons 86: Wearing their Mardi Gras uniforms it was the Hornets big men who were key — Ryan Anderson came off the bench and scored 31, Robin Lopez had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and that keyed the New Orleans win. The Hornets as a team also blocked 10 shots on the night, they were active defensively. The Hornets went on a 14-5 run at the end of the first half to really take control and the Pistons never got within a dozen in the second half. For the Pistons Rodney Stuckey had 19 point and Greg Monroe had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Anthony Davis has had a couple flat games in a row now.

Pacers’ Myles Turner shuts down Bradley Beal at the rim (VIDEO)

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Myles Turner owned the paint in the first half — the Pacers’ center had five blocked shots in the first 24 minutes.

The big shut down was on Bradley Beal, this is how a big man recovers and goes after it.

Then later there was this play leading to a bucket on the other end.

Turner has had a strong defensive season in the paint so far for the Pacers, a big step for him. He’s sixth among centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus stat (which has its flaws but is a good snapshot).

Washington learned that the hard way.

 

Report: Houston kicking tires on J.R. Smith trade with Cavaliers

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The Houston Rockets desperately need help on the wing (among other things, but wing is the personnel focus). The Rockets would also like to have less salary on the books next season, giving them some flexibility and lowering the tax bill.

J.R. Smith fits both of those bills, so Houston and GM Daryl Morey are at least taking a look at a potential trade, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

While there is some logic to this, we are a long way from it being a reality. Smith does not exactly have a positive trade value, at least as a player right now.

Smith was part of the rotation that helped the LeBron-led Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals last season, but he will be best remembered for the Game 1 blunder in the Finals that deflated the Cavs. Without the playmaking of LeBron, Smith struggled to start this season, shooting 34 percent for the Cavaliers in limited minutes, before going on hiatus from the team. That said, in a better situation where he was asked to play a small and specific role, maybe he could still help.

Smith is guaranteed $18.59 million this season but only $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed.

Houston seems a logical fit. Money wise, a Brandon Knight for Smith trade works, but the Rockets will have to throw in picks or other sweeteners to get the Cavaliers interested. Cleveland also likely will be patient, hoping that as the deadline gets closer there is a little bidding war for Smith.

Still, the Rockets are active on the trade market (as always), and they need wings, so this is worth keeping an eye on.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo has fluid drained from hand slowing his recovery from surgery

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Rajon Rondo has been out more than three weeks following surgery to repair the third metacarpal bone in his shooting hand (his right hand), and while there has been no official timeline he was expected back in the next week or two. He’s been out on the court before recent Lakers’ games getting in some work.

But he has now hit a bit of a setback, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on Wednesday. Here is what Walton said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s a little bit of swelling,” Walton said at Lakers shootaround on Monday in advance of his team’s game against the Miami Heat. “We’re going to shut him down for a few days then get back out after it again.”

It’s not clear when Rondo will return. He was averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game before the injury.

The Lakers have gone 8-4 since Rondo went to the bench with his fractured hand. Without the veteran point guard, LeBron James has had the ball in his hands more as a playmaker (to Magic Johnson’s frustration at times), paired with Lonzo Ball (who has started to show some real chemistry with LeBron). The Lakers offense hasn’t been particularly good in these past dozen games, bottom 10 in the league, but they have balanced that with a top 7 defense. The Lakers are getting wins thanks to that defense and enough LeBron shot creation to get it done.

The Lakers are going to have to keep getting it done and now without Brandon Ingram, too, who is expected to miss a few more games with a sprained ankle.

Report: Bulls execs John Paxson and Gar Forman backing Jim Boylen

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Bulls players have made clear their thoughts on new coach Jim Boylen’s abnormally frequent and lengthy practices, his harsh public critiques, his five-man substitutions:

They don’t like it.

Not every player feels the exact same way, but enough were fed up to refuse to practice yesterday – the day after a back-to-back, a time teams almost never practice. Everyone compromised on a team meeting, though players reportedly also complained to their union.

But Boylen says he isn’t backing down – and it sounds as if his superiors support him.

Boylen, via Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago:

“My job…is to try to push our guys to a place they can’t take themselves,” he said. “That’s pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what my job is. That’s what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for.

“I explained that to them – ‘Hey guys, everybody wants it comfortable, everybody wants it safe. Well, I don’t think you become great in that.’ So it’s going to be a little raw for a while, it’s going to be a little rough for a while. And maybe there’s a point where it gets not as rough but all of a sudden it’s got to be rough again.”

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The fact Boylen cited ownership is telling. Phil Jackson praised Boylen to Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf after Boylen met with the Hall of Fame coach last summer. And according to team and league sources, executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman raved to ownership about Boylen’s message during Sunday’s meeting, which Paxson and Forman attended.

I wonder whether Paxson and Forman actually believe in Boylen or just feel as if they have no choice but to support him. Their last coaching hire, Fred Hoiberg, flopped to the point questions emerged about Forman’s job security. Paxson already declared a plan to keep Boylen for next season. Maybe Paxson and Forman can’t dump Boylen without bringing too much scrutiny upon themselves.

But the status quo isn’t sustainable. Boylen can’t keep belittling his players and running them into the ground without inciting a rebellion. He must ease up at least a little.

A theory that gives the Bulls the benefit of the doubt (that they don’t necessarily deserve): They already know this is a lost season, and playing for a higher draft pick is their best strategy. Boylen’s harsh practices will both help them lose and instill good long-term habits. Plus, his presence ensures players will welcome Chicago’s next coach. Even someone more demanding than Hoiberg would now suddenly be a reprieve.