Baseline-to-baseline recaps: Carmelo’s 40 points lead Knicks to 10th straight victory

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while choosing sides in the battle between Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi …

Knicks 95, Hawks 82: The Knicks extended their league-best winning streak to 10 games on Wednesday, thanks to a dominant offensive performance from Carmelo Anthony for the second straight game.

Anthony finished with 40 points after dropping 50 on Miami just the night before, making him the first Knicks player since Patrick Ewing in the 1989-90 season to score at least 40 points in consecutive games.

This game was actually tied with under 10 minutes to play, and Anthony largely did his damage in the first three periods. New York got 10 points each from J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton in the final period, and the Knicks finished the game on a 23-10 run to seal it.

Raptors 88, Wizards 78: John Wall was just OK in this one, and didn’t get much help on a night the Wizards managed to shoot just over 32 percent from the field for the game. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists, but after Washington led by 11 at the half, the Raptors locked down in the final two periods to hold the Wizards to just 28 points the rest of the way.

DeMar DeRozan led the way for Toronto with 25 points, and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and did it on just seven shots thanks to a 16-18 effort from the free throw line.

Bobcats 88, Sixers 83: A dismal 2-24 night shooting from Jrue Holiday doomed the Sixers in this one, but because they were playing the league-worst Bobcats, they still had a chance. Gerald Henderson put an end to all that, however, with a key steal and a breakaway dunk that extended his tam’s lead to three with under 30 seconds remaining.

Nets 113, Cavaliers 95: Games like this are why Byron Scott is on the hot seat in Cleveland, despite the injuries this season and the youth present on the Cavaliers roster. The Nets led by as many as 34 points, and Cleveland allowed both Jerry Stackhouse and Deron Williams to get loose for dunks in the same game.

Celtics 98, Pistons 93: Boston needed some big baskets down the stretch to hold off a late Pistons rally, who came back to within three after trailing earlier in the game by as many as 18 points. Jeff Green continued his strong play with 34 points and four blocked shots, and hit the key three-pointer with under a minute to play that helped seal the victory by extending his team’s lead to five.

Charlie Villanueva managed to get 17 shots up in under 24 minutes for the Pistons, and made just two.

Timberwolves 107, Bucks 98: Minnesota isn’t playing for anything but pride at this stage of the season, after injuries robbed the team of its playoff chances some time ago. But after beating the Bucks, the Timberwolves have won three of four, all against  playoff teams.

It was a 13-34 night of shooting combined from Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, while Ricky Rubio finished with 19 points, 12 assists and eight steals, which helped to cancel out his eight turnovers. The Bucks are essentially locked into the eighth seed in the playoffs, but with eight games left in the regular season, they may want to focus a little bit considering that first round matchup with the Heat which looms in the distance.

Nuggets 113, Jazz 96: Utah had been playing better lately, but thy’re still a fringe team fighting to sneak into the playoffs. Denver, meanwhile, is on the fringe of the West’s elite tier, so the result of this one wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Denver shot better than 56 percent on Utah’s home floor, and saw seven of its players finish in double figures, led by 21 points on 10 shots from Danilo Gallinari.

The loss dropped the Jazz to ninth in the Western Conference standings, a half-game back of the Lakers.

Spurs 98, Magic 84: In a game without Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and Manu Ginobili, and one where Tim Duncan played less than 14 minutes, the Spurs got a win on the strength of their team defense. San Antonio held  Orlando to under 39 percent shooting for the game, and got a team-high 20 points from Danny Green offensively on the way to the victory.

Rockets 112, Kings 102: Houston got a huge game from Chandler Parsons, who finished with 29 points on 12-18 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and four assists. The Kings shot just 39.1 percent for the game, “led” by a 3-16 effort from starting point guard Isaiah Thomas.

Grizzlies 94, Blazers 76: The Grizz are tough to beat if you can’t find a way to score, considering their defense ranks right near the top of the league in points per 100 possessions. Portland attempted to beat it by launching 29 three-point attempts, but they were able to make just four.

Mike Conley continued his strong play for Memphis, and out-dueled likely Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard by finishing with 20 points and five assists on 7-11 shooting.

Clippers 126, Suns 101: The Clippers needed to get right after losing three straight, all to playoff teams, and the Suns were more than happy to oblige. This one was over early, as L.A. jumped out to a 10-point lead by the time the first quarter was through.

Ryan Hollins provided some late-game fireworks for the fans who were still in the building, thanks to this idiotic play that saw him get ejected after appearing for all of nine minutes in garbage time.

Warriors 98, Hornets 88: New Orleans actually led this one by 11 early in the second quarter, before the Warriors woke up and finished the half on a 32-12 run to put this one in the win column. David Lee led the effort for Golden State with 23 points and 16 rebounds.

Three Things to Know: New look Bucks remind Raptors East full of threats

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Bucks rain threes, throw down dunks, remind Raptors the top of the East is a Battle Royale. Here’s my primary takeaway from Milwaukee’s 104-99 win in Toronto Sunday:

I can’t wait for the second round and beyond of the Eastern Conference playoffs next May.

Any combination of the big four teams — Toronto, Milwaukee, Boston, and Philadelphia — is going to be a compelling combination of slugfest and chess match. All those teams are deep with talent, have versatility, can knock down threes, can defend, and any one of them can win the East’s King of the Mountain battle next May.

The Bucks reminded the Raptors on Sunday not to count them out.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was the focus of the army of long, athletic wing defenders the Raptors can roll out — Paskal Siakam, Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Danny Green — and they did as much as anyone can do to make Antetokounmpo look human, he finished with “just” 19 points on 15 shots. Of course, he also had 19 rebounds, 6 assists, but he didn’t take over the game. Toronto had clearly focused on making it difficult for the Greek Freak to beat them, although he still was doing this (even if it didn’t count).

What the Bucks had was other guys to step up. Brook Lopez was every bit of Splash Mountain scoring 19 points and going 5-of-8 from three, including a beautiful step back at one point. Then, with the game on the line, Malcolm Brogdon was doing this.

These are not the Jason Kidd Bucks anymore, this is a modern NBA team now — they took 39 threes and only 12 of their 87 shots came between 8 feet of the rim and the three-point arc (13.8 percent of their shots from that midrange). Credit the Raptors defense, that’s more midrangers than the Bucks usually take. However, under Mike Budenholzer these Bucks are committed to their style of play.

So is Toronto under Nick Nurse, and they took 44 threes, hitting 15 (34.1 percent). The Raptors just were not as efficient: Serge Ibaka had 22 points but needed 21 shots, Leonard had 20 points on 18 shots.

That is where Toronto needs Kyle Lowry to step up, but he is in the middle of a terrible shooting slump and was scoreless in this one (he did have seven assists, he’s more of a playmaker now, but he still needs to be a threat to score for it all to come together). Lowry was 0-of-5 Sunday, making him 5-of-32 in his last five games.

This was a highly entertaining, up-and-down game that for a few minutes became the Brogdon vs. Fred VanVleet shootout we all expected (VanVleet had 19 off the bench). Actually, it speaks to the depth of these rosters that this game could become that and never lose its energy.

Milwaukee got the win Sunday, but next May if these teams meet in the playoffs we’re all going to win.

2) In the wake of a 56-point blowout loss, Bulls players call for meetings, everybody vents. When Fred Hoiberg was fired, Bulls management didn’t give Jim Boylen the interim tag as the new coach, they gave him the job for the rest of this season and noted he’s under contract for next season and they want to bring him back.

The reason for this was to give him leverage to come in hard and shake things up — Boylen has called it “shock and awe” to borrow the military term. He’s running long, hard practices and benching starters when they struggle. He did that for the final 21 minutes Saturday 56-point blowout loss to the Celtics.

Sunday, players pushed back against the tactics. It almost led to a player mutiny where they didn’t show up to practice, but then Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez talked everyone into showing up and meeting — first a players’ only meeting, followed by one with coaches and the front office. There was a lot of venting to do.

Boylen has come in trying to change the culture of a Bulls team that needs it. Remember, he comes out of the Spurs organization, where Tim Duncan was open to Gregg Popovich coaching him hard and calling him out in front of the team as an example. Thing is, there is no Duncan on this Bulls team (on or off the court). When Hoiberg was the head coach Boylen could be the bad cop, hold guys accountable, and there was a balance, even if it didn’t work all that well. However, as the head coach, you can’t just be the bad cop or you lose guys. There has to be positives, there has to be rest for guys. More importantly, there must be explanations of why things are happening, trust needs to be built up. Do that and this generation of players will still run through walls for a coach — but if the coach just says “run through that wall” it doesn’t work anymore.

Everyone is adjusting to the new realities in Chicago. With Markkanen back and the team getting healthy, they should be good enough to move out of the East cellar. However, that’s going to take some work, from the players and coaches. And some open communication. That, at least, seems to be happening.

3) Julius Randle is a beasting as a starter. When Nikola Mirotic went out with an injury, Julius Randle slid into the starting lineup and has played in a way that is going to make it very difficult to take him out of it. Randle has dropped at least 26 points in his last four games — all starts — and that includes 28 points, six rebounds, and five assists Sunday as the Pelicans knocked off the Pistons 116-108.

In his last four games as a starter, Randle is averaging 29.5 points and 11.3 rebounds. It might be time for coach Alvin Gentry to take Randle out of the Sixth Man of the Year running — a race he has been in the conversation for early this season — because he will start to many games. It’s hard to argue with production.

DeMarcus Cousins is set to start practicing with Warriors’ G-League team

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We got a report this week that DeMarcus Cousins was already throwing down alley-oop dunks in Golden State Warriors practices. Now, it appears that cousins could be ready to take an NBA floor sooner rather than later.

According to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, Warriors coach Steve Kerr says that Cousins will start to practice with Golden State’s G-League affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Via Twitter:

Reports have said that Cousins is slated to return with the team after Christmas, and so this timeline stays with that thinking. Returns from Achilles injuries can be dodgy, and there will be a lot of question marks about his ability, both due to his size and age.

If Cousins can come back and produce efficiently, he will help bolster Golden State against a shifting Western Conference in the playoffs.

David West on Draymond Green-Kevin Durant dust-up: ‘I could’ve stopped it’

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David West used to be a calming influence in the Golden State Warriors locker room. The former two-time All-Star big man retired in August after a long career, and the Warriors are perhaps worse off because of it.

West was known to be the guy who could sort out the problems of other teammates, acting as an enforcer and mediator, a focuser of will. That might have come in handy this season as the Warriors have had some internal strife.

Draymond Green and Kevin Durant have famously feuded with each other, resulting in a blow up during a game against the Clippers which left Green suspended and Durant miffed.

During a recent interview with The Athletic, West said he felt he would have been able to diffuse the situation during the Clippers game and avoid some of the questions about Golden State moving forward.

Via The Athletic:

“I’m gonna be honest,” West told The Athletic by phone last month. “The only moment (where) I said, ‘Man, I wish I was there,’ was at that Clippers game. When Draymond turned the ball over at the end — and he was going to create the play; he was going to make the play, it just sometimes doesn’t happen — at that moment, when I saw the way he was walking, and I saw KD react, and it was like ‘Oh, I know if I was there that shit wouldn’t have happened.’ That’s the only moment where I felt like, ‘Man I could’ve stopped it.’”

At this juncture it’s hard to know just how much the issues between Durant and Green will cause, playoff time. The question about Durant leaving in free agency isn’t of real concern at this moment, mostly because it’s impossible to predict.

From an outside perspective, it does seem like West would have been a major factor during the Durant-Green tiff if he’d been in a Warriors jersey. West went on to say that the idea that Golden State doesn’t have to deal with adversity is “a false narrative”.

Will the Warriors be cohesive enough come playoff time? We’ll just have to wait to find out.

Report: Lakers trying to add Trevor Ariza via trade

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Phoenix Suns wing Trevor Ariza has been a popular target of topic of discussion for NBA fans, either as a potential buyout candidate or as a trade target for playoff teams looking to add a wily veteran.

On Sunday, we got word of one potential deal with the Los Angeles Lakers that could involve Ariza.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ariza could be on the move if LA can find a third party to take on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Via ESPN:

The teams have been working to reach an agreement with a third team that would take on Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as part of a potentially larger deal, league sources said.

The Suns want to land a playmaking guard and a draft asset as the price of unloading Ariza, sources said. Phoenix and Los Angeles have made progress in third-team scenarios, although no agreements are close and both teams remain active in multiple trade discussions throughout the league, sources said.

This is an early report but it clearly signals that the Lakers are going to be bold as they try to solidify be roster around LeBron James heading into the new year. They’ve already added veteran big man is Tyson Chandler, also formerly of the Suns, so trading for Ariza would be in line with that strategy.