Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Every game from the most entertaining night of NBA season

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while watching the rest of the legendary “pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?” commercial….

Knicks 109, Warriors 105: Stephen Curry was the story… except for the part where his team didn’t win the game. That’s not on him — 54 points on 28 shots and 11-of-13 from three, he did his part. The Knicks kept throwing different defenses at him and he either would attack the rim or just step back another few feet and knock it down anyway.

Golden State was without All-Star David Lee (suspended) yet Curry tied the game 105-105 with a couple free throws at 2:04 remaining. But the Warriors had gone cold — they never made a shot from the field in the final 3:30. That was enough for the Knicks to get the win. Carmelo Anthony had a big night himself with 35 points, J.R. Smith had 26 off the bench. Tyson Chandler also was a beast with 28 boards. The Knicks team effort was enough to beat Curry and the Warriors… but just barely, Curry was that good. Our man Brett Pollakoff broke the game down in more detail.

Suns 105, Spurs 101 (OT): In order for a team with the third-worst record in the West to beat the team with the best record in the league on the road, some strange things need to happen. They all did, at least enough for the Suns to pull out an overtime win in San Antonio by taking advantage of an off night from the Spurs.

Jermaine O’Neal outplayed Tim Duncan, scoring 22 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking a couple of shots in just 27 minutes of action. The Suns actually had six more offensive rebounds than the Spurs, resulting in a surprising 10-point advantage in the category of second chance points. As a team, the Spurs didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and Manu Ginobili was the worst of the bunch, going 2-8 from the field overall, which included 2-6 three-point shooting to go along with making only four of six free throw attempts.

One of those misses was extremely costly, as it left the door open for the Suns with just a few seconds remaining. Trailing by three, O’Neal threw the ball nearly the length of the court to Wesley Johnson, who immediately pulled up for a three as time expired that went down, forcing the overtime session.

Once there, the Suns shot just 2-9 from the field in the period, but the Spurs went 0-10, and this game came to its merciful conclusion with the Suns in the victory column for the second straight night.
—Brett Pollakoff

Nuggets 111, Trail Blazers 109: This was maybe the most intense game on a night of seemingly nothing but intense games. While Denver threatened to pull away in the second quarter most of the game was close. Denver scored seemingly at will, getting into the paint (72 points) with little resistance in transition or the half court. Denver’s big guns were making plays — Ty Lawson had 30 pints and Andre Iguodala added 29.

But Damian Lillard seemed to match Lawson play for play, on his way to 26 points. Behind his play and a number of threes (10-of-25 for Portland) it was a two-point Denver lead late after Wesley Mathews knocked down a three. A few plays later LaMarcus Aldridge tied the game 106-106 with 33 seconds left (Portland is one of the few teams in the league that runs its late-game possessions through its big man). An Andre Miller layup (terrible Portland defense) and some Lawson free throws made it a four point game with 13 seconds left. But Lillard hit a three and after Miller hit only one of two free throws on the intentional foul Portland was down two with one last shot.

Portland got the ball to Aldridge in the post again — 10 feet out and single covered by Wilson Chandler, who can’t handle him. Aldridge has a very good spin and slight fade away from the left block that is one of his best shots — but this time it rimmed out and Denver escaped with the win.

Grizzlies 90, Mavericks 84: By only looking at the final score, you might assume this game was actually a close and competitive contest. It wasn’t.

After Dallas ran out to a first-half lead of as many as 25 points, Memphis locked down defensively after halftime, holding the Mavericks to just five third-quarter points while going on a 34-4 run from 5:25 left in the first half to under four minutes remaining in the third.

The game never got out of hand in the Grizzlies’ favor, but it was clear Dallas had lost whatever it had early in this one and had no chance of regaining that magic. That’s eight straight wins for Memphis now, though it’s worth noting that most of those have come against non-playoff teams.
—Brett Pollakoff

Thunder 119, Hornets 74: This was hard to watch, mainly because you felt bad for the poor Hornets. They didn’t have any real hope without Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon on the floor, but if they did, Russell Westbrook obliterated it right away. Westbrook rattled off 18 points in the first quarter, and Kevin Durant recorded a triple-double in just 27 minutes of play. This was nothing more than a sparring session for the Thunder, and they looked plenty impressive in all aspects of this 45-point drubbing of the hapless Hornets.
—D.J. Foster

Bucks 110, Rockets 107: This didn’t look interesting early, the Rockets led by as many as 17 in the first half. That started to change as the Bucks got some better transition defense and Mike Dunleavy started knocking down his looks (11 first half points, he finished with 16). By halftime the game was tied and it was close the entire second half. Part of the reason the Rockets could not pull away was the 19 turnovers. But they got a good game from James Harden (25 points) and Omer Asik (16 points and 22 rebounds). For the Bucks Ersan Ilyasova had 20 points and 10 rebounds

Then Monta Ellis got a prayer answered. The play started with Ellis missing a jumper then Larry Sanders missing a tip-in, but it was the hustling Ellis who came out of all that with he offensive rebound. He threw the ball to Brandon Jennings, who tried to create off the dribble but got nowhere and had to pass to Ellis, who knocked down the last second prayer to win.

Hawks 102, Jazz 91: In the battle of which Al is better, Horford bested Jefferson and thus, the Hawks came away with the win.

Horford had a monster game and finished with 34 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocked shots. Jefferson wasn’t bad at all for the Jazz, finishing with 26 and 11 himself.

Josh Smith played one of his better all-around games, and found his shots mostly within the flow of the offense. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Atlanta got solid play from its guards as well, as Jeff Teague continued to play above-average basketball for his squad.

The Hawks were able to get out in transition often in this one, which helped build their early lead which reached as many as 20. Atlanta outscored Utah 20-7 in fast break points.
—Brett Pollakoff

Pistons 96, Wizards 95: Detroit came roaring back, outscoring Washington 31-13 in the fourth quarter to get the win. The fourth quarter for Washington was typified by their final shot, when Trevor Ariza got a pretty clean look at a corner three for the win and airballed it. But let’s not blame Ariza — Washington was down 96-87 with just over a minute to go and he scored eight straight points — two three-pointers and two free throws — to give Washington even a shot at the win.

Brandon Knight put in a career-best 32 points, Greg Monroe had 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Jose Calderon added 18 assists for the Pistons.

Cavaliers 103, Raptors 92: Cleveland opened the game shooting 1-for-15, they looked lost without Kyrie Irving out and were quickly down 21-7. Which frankly was a lot closer than it should have been, the Raptors didn’t own that first quarter like they needed to and it came back to bite them. In the second quarter the Cavaliers started scoring at will, went on a 20-7 run at one point, took the lead back and never trailed again. Dion Waiters eventually found his groove and had 25 points. Shaun Livingston, forced to start with Kyrie Irving out, had a solid 15 points and six assists.

DeMar DeRozan had 34 points for the Raptors, Rudy Gay added 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.

Kings 125, Magic 101: Sacramento carried some momentum over from their double-overtime loss to the Heat the night before and the team that had the worst road record in the NBA rolled the Magic. This was over early, with the Kings leading 60-37 in the second quarter. John Salmons had 21 points but it was the 64 points from the Sacramento Bench that was key.

There was one bright spot for Magic fans, recently acquired Tobias Harris had 23 points. He has scored in double figures off the bench in every game since joining Orlando. So there’s that.

Suns keep winning, T.J. Warren keeps scoring, Nuggets outlast Jazz in 2OT

Suns star Devin Booker vs. Heat
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Suns are unbeatable. T.J Warren is unstoppable. And the NBA is unapologetically fun.

Just another day in the NBA bubble.

Phoenix – already the NBA’s only undefeated team at Disney World – moved to 5-0 in seeding games with a 119-112 win over the Heat.

The Suns are still a half game outside play-in position with a tougher closing stretch than the ninth-place Trail Blazers.* But Phoenix sure is making the race interesting, and Portland isn’t closing the door.

*Both teams still play the 76ers and Mavericks. The Suns also play the Thunder. The Trail Blazers’ last seeding game is against the Nets.

Whether or not they make the playoffs, the Suns should absolutely be encouraged by this stretch. Unlike an early-season surge, when Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio carried big loads, Phoenix’s young players are leading the charge now. Devin Booker scored 35 points tonight. Jevon Carter added 20 points on 6-of-8 3-point shooting off the bench. Deandre Ayton (18 points and 12 rebounds) continues to impress. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson have steadily contributed at forward.

Expectations are rising for next season.

First, the Suns aren’t ready for this season to end soon.

All the best bubble stories were in Phoenix last season.

Pacers forward T.J. Warren – whom the Suns dumped with a draft-pick sweetener last summer – continued his scoring binge with 39 points in a 116-111 win over the Pacers.

Warren could always get buckets. But he has been on another level lately.

The Nuggets (somewhat safely in third place) and Jazz (who might prefer to finish sixth) had few obvious reasons to care about beating each other.

But then the game got going, and both teams’ competitive juices took over.

Donovan Mitchell drove for a layup to force overtime. Nikola Jokic converted inside to force double overtime. Finally, Jamal Murray – who scored 23 points in his first game of the resumption – put Denver up for good with a jumper then 3-pointer in a 134-132 victory.

Bubble games have featured such great energy and competitiveness.

Damian Lillard to Paul George on Instagram: ‘keep switching teams … running from the grind’

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Damian Lillard missed a pair of clutch free throws in the Trail Blazers’ loss to the Clippers today. Patrick Beverley and Paul George let Lillard hear about it. Lillard boasted in his post-game interview about his series-winning shots over Beverley’s Rockets in 2014 and George’s Thunder in 2019 (which literally came over George).

Now, the conflict has spilled onto Instagram.

Bleacher Report:

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Dame, PG and Pat Bev went at it in our comments 👀

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George:

And you getting sent home this year 🤣 respect✊

Beverley:

Cancun on 3😂😂😂

Lillard:

keep switching teams … running from the grind . You boys is chumps

George:

@damianlillard respect that too in my stint with my first team I had more success… Dame time running out g

George did lead the Pacers to Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, losing to the eventual-champion Heat. Indiana also pushed Miami to Game 6 in the 2014 Eastern Conference finals. George doesn’t get enough credit for those achievements.

Though Lillard’s Trail Blazers peaked in the 2019 Western Conference finals, they got swept by the team that lost in the NBA Finals.

But George forced his way out of Indiana despite that being the only place he could earn a super-max contract. He also re-signed with the Thunder, announcing his plan at a big party thrown by Russell Westbrook, then requested a trade to join Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers only a year later.

Lillard just has different sensibilities. He said he’d stick with the Trail Blazers rather than join a super team. Lillard even talked disparagingly about players who get pressured into bypassing super-max contracts in order to be viewed as a winner elsewhere.

So, this clash makes sense.

Maybe it got too personal for George, who has overcome major injury and returned even better. He surely doesn’t want to be called a chump at this point in his career.

But I disagree with George’s championships-only argument. There is plenty of room for major achievements that fall short of a title – like the Pacers’ deep playoff runs George cited. And Lillard’s series-winning shot last year. George was the casualty on that play. There’s no way around it, and it’s likely still a sore spot. That was a high-profile moment that supersedes missed free throws in a seeding game.

Lillard and George can go back-and-forth about their accomplishments. Both have done plenty in this league. Their individual routes to success show their contrasting values. Neither are wrong. They’re just different.

That’s perfectly fine and – when it leads to spats like this – fun.

Damian Lillard misses clutch FTs, Trail Blazers blow key game against Clippers backups

Damian Lillard vs. Clippers
Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images
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The Clippers – maybe wanting to give the Lakers a tougher first-round matchup – showed their lack of interest in beating the Trail Blazers today by sitting Kawhi Leonard. Down five with two minutes left, the Clippers really waved the white flag by closing with a lineup of:

But that group ended the game on a 12-2 run to hand Portland a devastating 122-117 loss.

The Trail Blazers are now just half a game up for ninth in the Western Conference. This further opens the door for the Spurs, Pelicans, Suns and even Kings to make a play-in (and gives the Grizzlies more breathing room for advancing to that stage).

After McGruder hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, Damian Lillard drew a pair of free throws with Portland down one. Lillard is arguably the NBA’s most clutch player, and he had made 89% of his free throws this season. But he missed both – to the particular delight of injured Clippers guard Patrick Beverley:

Beverley and Lillard have a longstanding personal rivalry. The Clippers also have Paul George.

After the game, Lillard – who hit a series-winning shot against Beverley’s Rockets in 2014 and another series-winning shot over George, who was with the Thunder, last year – didn’t mince words.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Lillard:

Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who – I sent him before at the end of a game. Paul George just got sent home by me last year in the playoffs. So, they know. The reason they’re reacting like that is because of what they expect from me, which is a sign of respect, and it just shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not. So, I’m not offended by it. If anything, it should just tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.

I love Lillard’s ability to remain calm and in control. Kudos for him for finding a way to boast after missing a pair of free throws that effectively cost his team a big game. Really. Lillard’s emotional maturity is an asset.

Expect the Trail Blazers to follow his lead and not further unravel. They can and probably should still be favored to reach the play-in.

But their margin for error definitely just shrunk.

76ers star Ben Simmons leaving bubble for surgery

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Ben Simmons injured his knee, and the 76ers didn’t hide their concerns.

This is serious.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Obviously, the surgery itself is a setback. If Simmons becomes healthy enough to return before Philadelphia gets eliminated, he could be required to quarantine in his hotel room – which would limit rehab and training.

And of course it will be difficult for Philadelphia to advance deep into the playoffs without Simmons.

There are even graver concerns beyond this season. Will Simmons now be more susceptible to future injuries? This could derail a budding championship contender with Joel Embiid and Simmons.

Embiid already has long-term health concerns. It was always uncertain how long Philadelphia’s window would remain open despite Embiid and Simmons being so young.

Even next season could be perilous. How long will Simmons take to recover? Next season could be right around the corner (or not). If the 76ers’ outlook looks worse – especially amid the economic downturn caused by coronavirus – they could no longer follow through on their plan to pay the luxury tax. Slashing payroll could further reduce the roster’s effectiveness.

Already, expectations shrink this season without Simmons. Philadelphia appears increasingly likely to land the No. 6 seed and a tough first-round series against the Celtics (rather than a spot in the 4-5 series against the Heat or Pacers).

Will these difficult circumstances give 76ers coach Brett Brown more leeway to keep his job? Or do they just make it more likely the 76ers lose early in the playoffs and fire him?

He has plenty of options for proceeding without Simmons. Simmons was a multi-positional star who spent most of the season at point guard but had been playing power forward in the bubble.

Without Simmons, Al Horford moved back into the starting lineup, and Mike Scott – who had been out with a knee injury – joined the rotation. Glenn Robinson III could also get an expanded role once he’s healthy.

Many sans-Simmons lineups could give Philadelphia more spacing around Embiid, which makes the star center even more dangerous.

But this loss of talent can’t be offset and significantly lowers the 76ers’ ceiling this season and maybe reduces their odds of reaching their ceiling in future seasons.