Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Knicks take night off (except they had a game)

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while you were hacking Donkey Kong to make Pauline the hero

Spurs 105, Thunder 93: The Spurs depth was too much for the Thunder — San Antonio made its big runs when it was bench-on-bench (mostly). Part of that was that the Thunder were playing their fourth game in five days. Par of that is that the Spurs are really, really good. We broke this Spurs win down in more detail.

Warriors 92, Knicks 63: It’s hard to accurately describe how bad the Knicks were in this game, but let me try with this: One week ago Stephen Curry, arguably the best pure shooter in the game today, dropped 54 points on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Monday night the Knicks decided to go under virtually every pick against him, giving him room to knock down jumpers. They’re lucky he only scored 26. David Lee returned and added 21.

The 63 points the Knicks scored were the fewest the Warriors franchise has allowed since 1958. When they were still the Philadelphia Warriors. The Knicks shot 27.4 percent for the game. J.R. Smith got ejected so he didn’t have to watch any more (not really, but nobody would have blamed him).

Carmelo Anthony was back from a knee injury and he looked slow and like he needed more time off, scoring 14 points (but getting 10 boards). Which leads to the stupidest thing the Knicks did all night — why did Mike Woodson play Anthony when the Knicks were getting blown out by more than 20 points in the third? Why did Woodson put him back in the game with nine minutes to go? Did he look fine to you, Woodson? Think he could just run through that knee issue that’s bothered him for weeks? Rest the man. Keep this up and you could actually kill any Knicks playoff hopes, Woodson. Don’t do it.

Nuggets 108, Suns 93: The Nuggets played this game like they knew they could take control and win it whenever they wanted. The team sleepwalked through the first half, yet still led by three at the break. They put it away in the fourth quarter with 10 fast break points in the final period, while not committing a single turnover in the final 12 minutes.

If you need proof that this was Denver’s game to lose, consider that Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala combined to shoot just 3-14 from the field, while Kosta Koufos led the team in scoring with a career-high 22 points on 10-11 shooting.

It’s tough to know what to make of the Suns at this point, considering that there doesn’t seem to be any plan in place other than rotating players in, seemingly at random, under the broad guise of player development. A perfect example: Shannon Brown had been essentially benched in favor of sticking to this mantra about a month ago, and received DNP-CDs in his last 10 games. He made an appearance in the second quarter of this one for some reason, though, and drew the biggest applause of the night from the fans in attendance.

As an aside, Hamed Haddadi of the Suns also had a career-high, and finished with 13 points in 19 minutes. So, yeah. It was a pretty special night in Phoenix.
—Brett Pollakoff

Sixers 106, Nets 97: Philadelphia had lost 12 of their last 13 — including Sunday night against lowly Orlando — but they played a much better and more complete game on Monday night. Out of nowhere. Spencer Hawes had 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, leading six Philly players in double figures. As a team, Philly shot 52.6 percent. As has been the problem much of the year, the Nets could not get a stop when they needed it. Deron Williams tried to take it on himself at times and finished with 27, with Joe Johnson adding 20 and Brook Lopez chipping in 19. But if the Nets can’t hold off the Bulls or Celtics for the four seed, this is the kind of game they will look back on and regret.

Jazz 103, Pistons 90: Utah desperately needed a win, and the Pistons were the doormats they required. This was close for a quarter but the Pistons were on the second night of a back-to-back and they slowed down in the second quarter, Utah went on a 12-0 run and pretty much coasted in from there. You knew it was going to be Utah’s night when that run started with Jeremy Evans knocking down a 19-foot jumper. Mo Williams had 20 points, Al Jefferson had16 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz. On top of everything else that has gone wrong for the Pistons, Brandon Knight sprained his ankle and could be out a while.

Jimmy Butler joins 76ers defending reputation from Timberwolves exit

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76ers general manager Elton Brand wore a suit. 76ers owner Joshua Harris wore a suit. New 76ers center Justin Patton wore a suit – with a bowtie!

And then there was Jimmy Butler, who sat between them in sweats.

“As you can tell, I’m the only one up here without a suit on because my suit got here late this morning,” Butler pointed out at his introductory press conference today.

Butler begins his new chapter in Philadelphia trying to repair his image.

His trade request from the Timberwolves, his subsequent tactics and reports about his treatment of teammates tarnished his reputation. In a humbler outfit – a genuine consequence of a hasty move or another orchestrated stunt? – Butler addressed those questions.

“I think that I’m an incredible human being, teammate, and I’ll show that to the guys that are here,” Butler said.

So, he won’t convince anyone he’s humble.

But he shouldn’t have to. Butler worked his way up from a modest origin into superstardom. Arrogance can be earned. His ascent should be celebrated – and emulated.

Everyone, including Butler’s new teammates, could learn from his work ethic. That didn’t work well in Minnesota, where Butler sparred with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler would do well to exercise more patience while setting an example.

Not that he’s ready to admit wrongdoing.

“The funny part about it is all you hear is ‘sources say.’ You never hear a player say it,” Butler said. “And I think if a player had a problem or anything, they would. That’s how I feel about the situation. Unless everybody in my past locker room was just that fake, I don’t think I’m that big of a problem at all.”

I don’t think players turned off by Butlers fury would be above criticizing him anonymously. His confrontational style isn’t for everyone.

Besides, Butler used leaks to his advantage, too. It’s all part of the game, which resulted in Butler getting his Bird Rights – and the ability to offer a max contract projected to be worth $190 million over five years – to the 76ers.

Of course, Butler denied money drove his trade request. He insisted he’s still the guy who listens to country music, plays dominos and drives a minivan.

“I’ve already got enough money to have me and my family set for the rest of my life,” Butler said. “It’s not about the money. I’ve got to be able to love where I’m at and have a great chance of winning a championship.

“I love what Josh and Elton are doing. I think they’re doing it the right way. That’s what matters, the people that are around here and how everybody is treated. Because basketball is just one part of it. But to know that you’re wanted and that you’re always going to be taken care of, your people are always going to be taken care of, I think that’s what matters most to me – and a lot of other people in this league.”

Butler wasn’t pressed on what went wrong in Minnesota. He professed his fondness for Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau and said, “it just didn’t work out.”

Will it in Philadelphia? Butler said he dominated the ball in Minnesota only because that was asked of him. He sounds ready to adjust to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, whose social-media postings Butler called a “special work of art.” Talent tends to win out, and this team has awesome defensive ability.

Butler’s reputation never should have been as sullied as it was. The Timberwolves’ mismanagement contributed to the dysfunction as much as, if not more, than Butler’s trade request. He still performed very well for Minnesota in his year-plus there.

But if he comes to Philadelphia with an even larger chip on his shoulder, eager to prove his bona fides as a teammate and leader, that could be good for him and the 76ers. Butler lifted himself to an elite level. He still must show an ability to help others get there.

At least on day one in Philadelphia, Butler came dressed to work.

Report: Draymond Green-Kevin Durant spat ‘one of the most intense of this Warriors era’

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Draymond Green and Kevin Durant got into a confrontation with each other during a game two years ago. They quickly downplayed the argument and since won two titles together with the Warriors. The incident was largely forgotten.

Green and Durant quarreled on the bench again last night. This time, the surrounding rhetoric is trending the other way.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

An angry late game exchange between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green carried into the Golden State Warriors locker room on Monday night in Los Angeles, where some teammates loudly confronted Green for his decision-making on the final play of regulation, league sources told ESPN.

After the 121-116 overtime loss to the LA Clippers, some witnesses described the closed-door exchange as one of the most intense of this Warriors era. No one had to be separated, no player left his side and no hint of physicality loomed in the setting, sources said.

If harsh words over late-game strategy has been most intense exchange of the last three seasons, the Warriors are incredibly spoiled. Related: The Warriors are incredibly spoiled.

Teams would kill to suffer only this level of drama. Bickering over a November loss is nearly nothing. Green wanted to push the ball. Durant wanted to control it himself. It’s not necessarily a deep issue.

That said, because the Warriors have faced minimal challenge since signing Durant, this can feel more significant to them. They might overreact and let this linger in ways teams with more serious problems might not. So, this can spiral into something bigger.

Big enough to affect Durant’s upcoming free agency? He has the power to leave, and playing with the temperamental Green can be draining.

It can also be rewarding. Green’s attitude helps make him one of the NBA’s top defenders, and he’s a superb playmaker – a reason keeping the ball in his hands, despite the failed result this time, made sense. If Durant leaves Golden State, he might not find a teammate as good as Green (let alone Stephen Curry).

This episode will be one of the many things for Durant to consider next summer.

DeMar DeRozan learned he had been traded in parking lot of Jack-in-the-Box

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As if eating Jack-in-the-Box in your car at midnight was not depressing enough already…

That’s when and where DeMar DeRozan learned he had been traded from Toronto — the city and franchise he was all in on — to the San Antonio Spurs. The trade sent DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

DeRozan opened up to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report about how he learned about the decision that rocked him to his core.

DeRozan found out about the trade after getting out of a screening of The Equalizer 2, featuring Denzel Washington. Upon leaving the movie theater in Los Angeles late into the night, he checked his phone. “[I] was wondering why I was getting missed calls,” he says.

He was hungry, so he went to get something to eat at a Jack in the Box. In the parking lot, he got the call telling him he had just been traded to San Antonio. “It just caught me off guard,” he says. “I sat in the Jack in the Box parking lot for, like, two hours just trying to process it all, like just trying to process the whole thing, and it just tripped me out honestly, just trying to figure it out, but that’s how I found out. Midnight, sitting in the Jack in the Box parking lot for about two hours till I went home.”

It’s a trade that Toronto felt it had to make, in the same way it felt it had to move on from Coach of the Year Dwane Casey. The Raptors were enjoying their best run of basketball success in franchise history, having won 59 games the season before, but come the playoffs their system and personnel were just a little too predictable, and they could not reach the next level. Plus LeBron James was in the way.

Except now LeBron wasn’t in the way, and the Raptors decided to swing for the fences. Early on Toronto looks very good this season, but the real test of Leonard and the new-look Raptors starts in April. We’ve seen the good regular season Raptors before.

DeRozan is averaging 25.2 points per game this season and has been more efficient as a shooter because the Spurs have asked him to play to his strengths — the midrange jumper. DeRozan is taking fewer threes in a league that has gone three crazy. The Spurs are 9.8 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, with most of that help on the offensive end. More than that, DeRozan has found a new home, a new comfort level.

But there are still a few scars from how all of it went down.

Nets: Caris LeVert dislocated foot, will return this season

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Caris LeVert‘s injury last night looked so severe, his Nets teammates cried and the Timberwolves prayed.

Thankfully, that all turned out to be an overreaction. (Or, if you believe, the compassion and prayer worked.)

Nets release:

Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert returned to New York with the team last night and was evaluated today by Nets’ Team Orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Following the evaluation, LeVert was diagnosed with a subtalar dislocation of the right foot.

“Fortunately, tests performed this morning revealed that there are no fractures and only moderate ligament damage,” said Dr. O’Malley. “While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required. Caris will begin a period of rehabilitation with the Nets’ performance staff, following which he is expected to return to full strength and resume all basketball activities without any limitations this season.”

This is fantastic news. LeVert is one of the NBA’s up-and-comers and well-liked by nearly everyone who knows him. People all around the league wished him well in the wake of this injury.

It’s still unclear how much time LeVert will miss. A dislocated foot is a small matter only relative to the feared severity of LeVert’s injury. This will probably derail his Most Improved Player campaign.

But LeVert returning to the court this season will be a joyous occasion on its own.