Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Celtics’ off night makes Bobcats look good

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while checking out what porn stars look like without makeup

Heat 98, Hawks 81: If Tuesday night was any indication, the Hawks should want to win enough games from here on out to avoid slipping to the eighth seed and getting the Heat in the first round. Miami’s win streak is up to 19 and our own Brett Pollakoff has the details.

Lakers 106, Magic 97: After the fans booed Dwight Howard, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn tried his own trick to trip up Howard — he went to hack-a-Howard and sent him to the line 39 times (tying the NBA record, also owned by Howard). But Dwight knocked down 25 and that fueled the Lakers win. We broke this game down in more detail, just follow this link.

Bobcats 100, Celtics 74: Wow, that was ugly for Boston. Paul Pierce was out for the night and the up and down Jeff Green started — and it was a down day. He was 4-of-11 shooting. Kevin Garnett looked tired and shot 2-for-10. This was the kind of game Boston needs Jason Terry to step up and he was invisible (and 2-of-5 shooting). And so it went, Avery Bradley was 4-of-11 from the field.

But let’s give the Bobcats some credit for snapping their 10-game losing streak. Gerald Henderson scored a career-high 35 points and the Bobcats pulled away with a 12-3 run to open the second half. I swear I even saw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist knock down a jumper — when his outside shot is falling you know it’s the Bobcat’s night.

Timberwolves 107, Spurs 83: It was the second night of a back-to-back so the Spurs rested both Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard (plus Tony Parker is still out). Even so, San Antonio raced out to 14-4 lead and that grew to 21-10.

Then Ricky Rubio led the comeback — he drove the lane, broke down the Spurs defense, created open shots and Rubio finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. That would be his first career triple-double. Minnesota also played some aggressive defense, with 11 blocked shots and forcing 17 turnovers. It’s a bit of a fluke outcome, but the Timberwolves could use some breaks and good wins.

Grizzlies 102, Trail Blazers 97: Memphis got Zach Randolph back from the sprained ankle that kept him out the past four games, and he responded with 19 points and 10 rebounds. In some ways it was a classic Grizzlies win as Randolph and Marc Gasol combined to shoot 16-of-26, then when they sat Ed Davis came in and added 14 points. Memphis pounded Portland inside all game.

Grizzlies seemed to be in control but in the fourth quarter. Yet Portland run made a couple of runs to keep it close, including within five points inside the final two minutes. But Tayshaun Prince drove the lane and put up a jump hook. Then Mike Conley hit a driving layup (he had 12 points in the fourth quarter, including some key free throws) and it was just too much from Portland. As happens with the Blazers they got a good game from their starters — LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Damian Lillard added 27 points and seven assists — but their bench let them down.

Nets 108, Hornets 98: Brooklyn created a little space for itself in the second quarter with a 15-4 run, one fueled by Deron Williams and four Hornets turnover. Williams is getting healthy and starting to look like the guy thought of as one of the best point guards in the game, and he finished with 21 points and 13 assists. More than the numbers, he seemed to control the flow of the game.

Still, the Hornets fought back, led by Anthony Davis who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. It was a two-point game entering the fourth quarter, but the Nets opened the period on a 12-3 run and pulled away. Brooklyn got a lot of help from its big men — Brook Lopez had 26 points while Andray Blatche added 20 points.

Mavericks 115, Bucks 108: Milwaukee was making its push in the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run, then Vince Carter happened. The Mavericks veteran swingman had 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a trio of three-pointers that killed Milwaukee momentum. Carter finished with 23. Monta Ellis finished with 32, but he didn’t get a lot of help from Brandon Jennings (who was completely outplayed by Mike James).

For the Bucks, they are not in danger of falling out of the playoffs but they need to win games like this to get out of the eight seed (and the Heat in the first round). Dallas has won four in a row and is now within three games of the eight-seed Lakers. Still a huge hill to climb, but that dream is not dead.

Cavaliers 95, Wizards 90: The Wizards got off to a fast start — they raced out to an 11-0 lead and Cavaliers coach Byron Scott benched starters Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Alonzo Gee, and Tyler Zeller just two minutes into the game. The message worked

While the Wizards went on to put up 33 points in the first quarter, they scored 57 total in the final three. Washington shot 38.2 percent in the final three quarters of the game, including 2-of-12 from three (Washington really misses Bradley Beal). For Cleveland, Dion Waiters led six guys in double figures with his 20. John Wall led the Wizards with 27 on 15 shots, plus had 14 assists.

Celtics’ draftee Robert Williams overslept introductory conference call

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For a guy who slid way down the draft board due to serious concerns about his motor and work ethic, this is not the start Robert Williams wanted with the Celtics.

The Texas A&M center was selected 27th by Boston, but he chose not to go to New York for the draft itself and stayed home in Louisiana to watch it with family. They apparently had a good time, because his introductory conference call with the media started an hour late on Friday, and Williams admitted he overslept.

From Chris Forsberg at ESPN:

“Right after the draft, I actually ran to my aunt’s house and went to sleep because I was so tired from everything,” Williams said Friday afternoon in a call that took place an hour later than originally scheduled. “When I woke up, my sister woke me up, she said, ‘You have a conference call.'”

Williams later noted that it was, “a good night’s sleep after a busy two days.”

The Celtics blamed this on a miscommunication and the one-hour time difference between Boston and Louisiana. They let it slide.

Williams could be the steal of the draft. Could be — if those he can prove all those concerns about his motor and effort level to be false.

Williams has the skills to be an elite NBA defender, and despite his up-and-down efforts in college he was a defensive and rebounding force. His NBA game is going to be as a rim and paint protector on one end and a rim runner finishing alley-oops on the other. Think DeAndre Jordan style of big. The difference: thanks to a lot of work by Jordan (and some smart coaching by Doc Rivers to restore his confidence) Jordan fulfilled his potential. Can Boston get that out of Williams? Will Williams himself to work?

If they do, this is a steal for the Celtics.

If not, well, missing on the No. 27 pick in the draft is not going to set back their contender arc.

Cavaliers GM on LeBron James: ‘We want to respect his space’ during contract decision

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — With one deadline looming on his future in Cleveland, LeBron James has been in contact with the Cavaliers through his representatives.

Following the NBA draft on Thursday night, Cavs general manager Koby Altman said he has had positive discussions with the three-time champion’s group. James has until June 29 to tell the team if he will pick up his $35.6 million option for next season or become a free agent.

“We continue to have good dialogue with his management team,” Altman said. “I think LeBron has more than earned the right to approach his contracts the way he does. He’s done that before, so this is nothing new for us. We want to respect his space during this process and I continue to have really good dialogue with his management team as he goes through that process.

“That’s probably all I can say at this point regarding him, but we don’t take him for granted. We love him, this city loves him. He means the world to us and this franchise.”

James led the Cavs to their fourth straight NBA Finals this season, carrying a team that endured injuries and a roster overhaul at the trading deadline. Cleveland was swept by the Golden State Warriors, and following Game 4 the 33-year-old said he would weight family concerns and his desire to win more titles into his decision.

James has signed several short-term contracts since returning to the Cavs in 2014 after spending four seasons with Miami. After the Cavs won the championship in 2016, James signed a two-year contract with an option for this season.

The Cavs can offer him a five-year, $209 million deal this time. It’s possible James could choose to sign a one-year deal again with a player option and go through the free-agency dance again next summer.

To look more appealing to James, the Cavs need to upgrade their roster and they took a significant step by selecting Alabama point guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 overall pick. Sexton averaged 19.2 points as a freshman and he addresses the club’s biggest need – a playmaker to fill the void left when the Cavs traded All-Star Kyrie Irving last summer.

Altman hopes Sexton’s arrival will make the Cavs more attractive to James.

The 19-year-old lacks professional experience, but Altman pointed out that James dealt with that issue this season.

“He went through it this year a little bit with some of our young guys, especially in the playoffs,” Altman said. “What’s amazing, he talks about this all the time – the best teacher is experience. And our young guys got some really good experience this year. And while it wasn’t consistent throughout the playoffs, each guy had their moments. And we went through two Game 7s and got to a Finals, and that experience is a huge teacher for those guys.

“So that experience is amazing for them and their confidence level as they approach next year. And then Collin, we got to get there with experience as well. But like he (James) says, experience is the best teacher, and we gave those guys a great experience over 30 games and into the playoffs and into the Finals, and what does that mean for us moving forward, I think it’s all really positive.”

Report: Lakers tell LiAngelo Ball he will not be invited to Summer League team

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LiAngelo Ball was never going to get drafted Thursday night. He simply is not that good (something I heard from every scout I talked to that saw him play).

He did get invited to work out for some teams before the draft (including the Warriors and Lakers). Impress there and the next step is an invite to play on a Summer League team. I don’t know if the middle Ball son impressed enough in workouts to earn an invite, but I do know he had an extra hurdle to climb — and a big one to most teams — because organizations do not want to deal with LaVar Ball and that circus.

That includes the Lakers, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

It will be interesting to see if another team is willing to give LiAngelo Ball a roster spot in Las Vegas. I would be shocked if a G-League team or two does not make him an offer for next season — for them, the marketing and publicity would be worth the hassle. How well he plays is secondary.

If a player is as talented and has the potential of Lonzo Ball, teams will put up with a lot. The Lakers organization has its frustrations with LaVar (to put it kindly), but they like Lonzo and what he could become (the team just played better with him on the court last season). Yes, Lonzo has trade value, too, but they’re not opposed to keeping him, depending upon how this summer shakes out. They can ignore the dad for him.

LiAngelo simply isn’t the level of talent where teams will tolerate the circus around him.

The big question for me is LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three brothers, who was considered a top prospect for colleges a couple of years ago (and had committed to UCLA). How has being pulled out of his high school and playing low-level European competition in exhibitions in Lithuania impacted his standing? Something to watch over the next few years.

Just know LaVar Ball is never giving up the dream.

In surprise to nobody, Carmelo Anthony reportedly will not opt out of $27.9 million

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Carmelo Anthony is going to take the money. Who could have seen that coming?

Not that we should blame the man — anybody else in his shoes (including you, dear reader) would do the same thing. Anthony is contractually owed $27.9 million next seasons, and while he can opt out he knows if he did the open market would not pay near that much. So the man is going to take the cash, which was expected but Marc Stein of the New York Times is making it official.

Carmelo Anthony does not intend to opt out of his current contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to a person familiar with Anthony’s decision.

Anthony has until Saturday at midnight (Eastern) to exercise the option that would make him a free agent July 1 — provided he were willing to walk away from the $27.9 million he is owed next season. But he is planning to let the deadline pass quietly and keep his current contract in effect, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

The Thunder are in a bind.

It became clear in the playoffs that at this point in his career, Anthony’s defense and ball-stopping offense are just not a fit with this Oklahoma City roster. He played 194 playoff minutes with the Thunder and had two assists. Last regular season, 32.5 percent of Anthony’s offense came from isolations or post ups, and he scored less than 0.9 points per possessions on those — his numbers aren’t awful, but they’re not good enough to  make up for his poor defense. (Stats via Synergy Sports.)

That’s why Anthony saw his minutes and role shrink in the postseason — but he said after the Thunder were eliminated (in the first round) he did not want to accept that role and fewer touches next season. He said he wants to get back to playing his way. (Stop laughing, Knicks’ fans, it’s not polite.)

The Thunder may try to trade him. Good luck with that. There is going to be limited to no market. With that salary they are going to have to throw in a serious sweetener to get other teams to bite (and/or take on a worse, longer contract in return).

Anthony is not likely to take less in a buyout to get out of town.

Nobody should blame Anthony here — he is taking the money is is contractually owed. The Knicks gave him this contract, the Thunder traded for it. But OKC is backed into a corner with this move and has few options.