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.

Kevin Knox won over Knicks and now expects to win over their fans

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GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Kevin Knox took a call from someone who knew exactly what he experienced on draft night.

New Yorkers didn’t welcome Kristaps Porzingis with open arms, either.

“He asked me how the fans reacted and I told him I got the same amount of boos as he got,” Knox said Friday. “He just laughed and he said it’s all motivation and fuel to the fire, and he said just work and he said sooner or later they’ll be cheering for you.”

That’s what happened with Porzingis, who quickly won over those who loudly booed his selection in 2015 with his talent, competitiveness and work ethic.

The Knicks see the same traits in Knox, convincing them that the Kentucky freshman was not only the player to take with the No. 9 pick but that he’s ready to start and match up with the NBA’s best small forwards next season.

That’s why they decided a day before the draft they were taking Knox if he was available and didn’t waver from that even when Michael Porter Jr. was still on the board – disappointing some at Barclays Center who chanted for Porter and then booed Knox.

“I love the fact that he wanted to be at Kentucky, that he wanted to be a Knick,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “Says a lot about that kid that he wants challenges and so I think he’s going to fit exactly the way we want to build our culture.”

Beyond the 15.6 points he averaged last season while sharing SEC Freshman of the Year honors with Collin Sexton – drafted one pick earlier by Cleveland – Knox impressed the Knicks with his confidence. He chose to play at Kentucky out of Tampa Catholic in Florida and compete for playing time with the other talented players in Lexington, then agreed to play 3-on-3 in workouts when many top prospects prefer to do them individually.

And the annual outsized expectations faced by John Calipari’s teams should help Knox prepare for the pressure of New York, perhaps giving him a quicker adjustment period than Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks’ lottery pick last season, had after coming to the U.S. from France.

“That actually is going to be up to Kevin, what the learning curve is and how long the adjustment takes,” team president Steve Mills said. “But what I will say is that while all college basketball programs prepare guys to play in the NBA, the sort of pressure and the limelight and the spotlight you’re under when you make a decision to play at Kentucky I think does prepare you in a different way to play in a place like New York. So I think some of the things that are tougher for rookies to make adjustments to are some things that he’s already been through.”

The adjustment is likely much longer for 7-footer Mitchell Robinson, who the Knicks took with the No. 36 pick. A high school All-American in 2016-17, he enrolled at Western Kentucky but never played, instead leaving school and opting to train for the draft. He said he worked out daily, but hasn’t played competitively in a year so it’s unknown how soon he could contribute.

But Fizdale sounds ready to put Knox on the court right away on a team that used Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee as undersized small forwards last season.

“They’re both 6-5 and he’s got to guard LeBron and (Kevin) Durant and those are the 3s in our league,” Fizdale said. “So I feel like it’s a very good opportunity to have a chance to start.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

As expected, Denver’s Wilson Chandler to opt into $12.8 million next season

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Wilson Chandler played a workmanlike role for the Nuggets last season — more than 30 minutes a game (in 74 games), 10 points a night, shot 35.8 percent from three. His efficiency and value slipped from previous seasons but he still played a role for the team.

Not the kind of role that’s going to earn him a big payday as a free agent, so he will opt into the $12.8 million for next season, a story broken by Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler will exercise his player option for the 2018-19 season, league sources tell ESPN.

Chandler, 31, is opting into a $12.8 million salary instead of entering free agency this summer. Denver was notified of his decision on Friday.

Chandler’s name has come up in trade discussions in recent years, and no doubt the Nuggets would be happy to move his salary now, too. However, in a tight financial market it’s unlikely that’s happening without Denver throwing in a sweetener, and that’s not likely either. So it will be another season of Chandler in Denver.

Deandre Ayton arrives as symbol that Suns are on the rise

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PHOENIX (AP) — Since the heady days of Steve Nash came to an end, there have been few signs of joy from a dwindling fan base that watched the Phoenix Suns tumble to the bottom of the NBA standings and miss the playoffs for the eighth year in a row.

Then came the announcement that Deandre Ayton would go to the Suns with the first overall pick. A huge cheer went up from the several thousand fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Thursday night for the draft party. General manager Ryan McDonough, owner Robert Sarver and coach Igor Kokoskov came out of their meeting room to watch and bask in that rare moment of sheer joy from the fans.

“It was a pretty special moment for our franchise,” McDonough said.

Not only that, but McDonough engineered a last-minute trade for swingman Mikal Bridges of Villanova, the 10th pick. It was a spendy move because Philadelphia demanded and got Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick. But the Suns are weary of stockpiling assets. It’s time to cash in, they figured, and did it with that trade.

“We weighed the pros and cons of trading it heavily and carefully,” McDonough said. “We were only going to put it in play if we had a chance to get a special player and that’s how we feel about McKell.”

All four of the Suns’ picks showed up on a crowded dais in Phoenix on Friday – Ayton, Bridges, French point guard Elie Okobo (chosen 31st) and forward George King of Colorado (the 59th selection).

The 7-foot-1 Ayton towered over the others, in a white unbuttoned collared shirt and a sharp blue suit, but he looked and sounded a bit weary from the whirlwind of being the No. 1 draft pick. His only sleep lately, he said, was a couple of hours on the plane ride from New York on Tuesday.

“I’m just excited to finally get a jersey on and be able to play five-on-five again,” Ayton said.

Ayton had been the frontrunner for the No. 1 pick ever since the draft lottery and any doubts were erased when he went through an individual workout with the Suns, the only team which he did so.

McDonough said that Ayton’s workout “in and of itself was as impressive as I’ve ever seen in my 16 drafts in the NBA.”

Ayton is seen as strictly a center, so how does he fit in the modern style of the NBA, when center plays is diminished and players are essentially interchangeable, is a question. Ayton replied that he’s no ordinary center.

“I don’t like it when people think I’m just a guy down low,” he said. “They haven’t watched me shoot the basketball.”

Ayton and Bridges say they got to know each other well at the college awards ceremony in Los Angeles but never figured they’d be on the same team.

“It’s like I’ve known him my whole life,” Bridges said.

Now comes the hard work, molding a team with Ayton, Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. A billboard of those three already has been erected downtown.

The Suns, so bad for so long, seem on the brink of being relevant.

“We’re very hungry,” Ayton said. “I think the great team chemistry and the work ethic that we have, especially us guys coming in, we’re going to bring it to the next level. We’ve got young lets. We can run all day. … We can really start a winning legacy.”

And Ayton is the reason for the sudden leap in optimism, even though he won’t turn 20 until next month.

“I embrace it a lot,” he said of the expectations placed upon him. “Through my career I’ve always had that on my shoulder, the expectations. I represent a whole nation (Bahamas) I just do that the best that I can and just help this community start over and be the best player I can possibly be. I just want to be the best great player.”

Kokoskov says Ayton possesses “a unique talent for the decades.”

Ayton said he wants “to be the best person on and off the court.”

Now the Suns move on to the next phase. Free agency starts July 1 and McDonough wants some veteran players to add to this very young core. He said the team should have $15 million to $20 million to spend.

“We were aggressive last night with the picks and the trade up to get Mikal,” McDonough said. “We’re going to continue to be aggressive for the next couple of weeks in free agency. We’ve got some money to spend and we’re looking to spend it on the best players we can get.”

Hornets GM Kupchak: Kemba Walker focal point of franchise going forward

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — General manager Mitch Kupchak wants point guard Kemba Walker to end his NBA career right where it started — with the Charlotte Hornets.

Kupchak said Friday that Walker is “revered” in the Charlotte community, and that he and owner Michael Jordan look at the two-time All-Star as “the focal point of this franchise going forward.”

The 28-year-old Walker has been the subject of possible NBA trade talks as he prepares to enter the final year of his contract with the Hornets. That speculation has amped up recently because it is a practical impossibility for Charlotte to sign Walker to an extension before he becomes a free agent in July of 2019 since the Hornets are so tight under the salary cap.

“I think everybody is aware of the situation, if you follow basketball a little bit, it is unique that he is on an extension that may make it a challenge going forward to figure out before he becomes a free agent,” Kupchak said.

At $12 million per year, Walker well underpaid when compared to the other top point guards in the league.

But that doesn’t mean Kupchak is giving up hope the team can keep Walker in Charlotte.

“I don’t think it is anybody’s goal to lose him in free agency,” Kupchak said. “But going forward, in the community, in the franchise, this is a player that we hope is with us – not only for the next couple of years, but ends his career here.”

The Hornets don’t have much experience behind Walker at point guard.

They have last year’s first-round draft pick Malik Monk and drafted Devonte Graham from Kansas in the second round on Thursday night.

Graham said he is excited to pick Walker’s brain when it comes to basketball.

“I have never met him, but I remember watching him play when he was at UConn though,” Graham said. “I’m just excited man to learn from someone like that and just be around someone like that who is winner, and knows how to win and compete. I am looking forward to being able to learn from him.”