Baseline-to-baseline recaps: Heat set franchise record for wins, Lakers remain in playoff position

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while waiting for Microsoft Office to come to your mobile devices

Lakers 113, Trail Blazers 106: Kobe Bryant scored 47 points to out-duel rookie Damian Lillard, who finished with 38. Bryant dragged his team to victory for the second straight night, and we broke it down in greater detail here.

Heat 103, Wizards 98: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh didn’t play, but Ray Allen stepped up by matching a season-high 23 points, which he last accomplished Nov. 3. Fellow-old-role-player Rashard Lewis also scored a season high, finishing with 17 points. Just in case the absence of three of the game’s top players wasn’t enough, Miami’s style shook up the game. The Heat attempted 41 3-pointers (17 makes) and turned the ball over 22 times. — Dan Feldman

Nuggets 96, Spurs 86: The first quarter of this game was just flat out ugly. Both teams made a few defensive plays, but mostly there were just a lot of missed shots — Denver hit 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) in the first, which had them 8 points back of San Antonio 19-11. Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler combined 4-13.

However, the Spurs never pulled away, in part because they started off shoting 0-7 from three. To be fair, San Antonio was without Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili. Eventually the Nuggets got hot — Chandler shot 9-of-15 the rest of the way, Brewer 10-of-18 and they finished with 29 and 28 points respectively. The game remained tight until a 23-3 run at the end of the third into the start of the fourth and that was it — playing shorthanded against the deepest team in the league finally caught up to the Spurs and it was the Nuggets bench that led the run.

With the win, Denver moves a full game up on Memphis in the race for the three seed in the West. The loss sends the Spurs into a tie with Oklahoma City for the best record in the West (both are 57-21), but OKC has the tiebreak as they will finish with a better record in conference. — Kurt Helin

Hawks 124, 76ers 101: After losing three straight – including a loss to this same Philadelphia team – Atlanta got easy shots and made them. The Hawks, who shot 59 percent on 2-pointers and 94 percent on free throws, are now tied with the Bulls for the No. 5 seed in the East. The 76ers – who’ve lost their last three games by 19, 21 and now 23 – might be done competing for the season, if not for their next three games being against teams that are similarly ready for this season to end: Washington, Cleveland and Detroit. — Dan Feldman

Magic 113, Bucks 103: The youngsters – Nikola Vucevic (30 points, 20 rebounds, five assists), Tobias Harris (30 points, 19 rebounds, five assists) and John Henson (17 points, 25 rebounds, seven blocks) – had ridiculous all-around games. That’s fine and dandy for the Magic, who are looking for a few positives at the end of a rebuilding season. But the Bucks should be gearing up for a first-round matchup with the Heat, not just showcasing Henson or worrying about seller’s remorse with Harris. That might be difficult, though, considering Brandon Jennings and Larry Sanders left the game with injuries. — Dan Feldman

Pistons 111, Cavaliers 104: If you were to start a team with a player who won’t make the playoffs this season, whom would you take? Two contenders played in this game: Andre Drummond (career-high 29 points and 11 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (27 points and nine assists). Cleveland intentionally fouled Drummond late, but he made 8-of-14 free throws during that time to help hold off the Cavaliers, who gained valuable lottery positioning with a loss to the team just ahead of them in the standings. — Dan Feldman

Nets 101, Celtics 93: Boston settled for the jump shot and it failed them — Jeff Green was 4-of-17 on the night, Jason Terry 1-7, and the Celtics didn’t get their first free throw until more than three minutes had gone by in the second half. The Boston offense struggles unless role players like Green light it up (he is the bellwether for their offense) and he was off.

Deron Williams was on — he had 29 points and 12 assists. D-Will picked up 10 of those points in the fourth quarter to help stave off some Celtics pushes. Joe Johnsn added 20, Brook Lopez 21 for the Nets. — Kurt Helin

Clippers 111, Timberwolves 95: This is what the Clippers do — they destroy the teams they should beat. Los Angeles also did what coaches love to see in that they closed out quarters well — they went on a 16-6 run to close out the second quarter and a 19-6 one to close out the third and blow the game wide open. The Clippers were balanced with six players in double figures scoring led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin with 19 points each. And of course, Griffin had a few monster dunks. — Kurt Helin

Kings 121, Hornets 110: There haven’t been a lot of laughers for the Kings this season, but they got one Wednesday night — Sacramento started to pull away with a 14-2 run midway through the first quarter and they led by as many as 30. John Salmons had 22 points, 12 of those in the third quarter to make sure the Kings kept their lead. Jason Thompson and Marcus Thornton each added 20. — Kurt Helin

Suns 102, Mavericks 91: Dallas essentially no-showed for this game, and allowed a Phoenix team that isn’t exactly known for its offense to put up 61 first half points on the Mavs’ home floor. As a result, Dallas was officially eliminated from the playoffs, and will miss the postseason for the fist time since 2000. Not that the hopes were all that high for Dallas entering this one; the team has known since losing to the Lakers in Los Angeles on April 2 that it would take a not-so-small miracle for the team to get in, considering the records of both Utah and L.A. who are firmly ahead of the Mavericks in the standings.

Rumor: Al Horford thinks 4-year, $100 million contract awaits him in free agency

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Things have already gone sideways for the Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving is set to leave, reportedly for the Brooklyn Nets. Al Horford opted out of his contract with the team this week, and reports have it that the integral big man is looking to go elsewhere.

Horford had $30 million left on his contract at age 33, so there had to be some belief that he would get a job elsewhere for more money than the Celtics would be willing to pay. Now, according to a new report, that is exactly the case.

It was floated on Tuesday night that Horford already knew that somebody was looking to sign him to another long-term deal. New York Times writer Marc Stein tweeted as much late Tuesday night, saying that Horford and his camp believe there is a deal around $100 million waiting for him in free agency.

Via Twitter:

It is — and we can’t stress this enough — freaking June. It’s literally and figuratively too early for this.

We all laughed last season about the arbitrary deadlines of free agency creeping forward. Deals were already done well before it was permitted to actually sign free agents in July. But this… is getting ridiculous.

Horford is a leader, the glue that apparently kept the Celtics from breaking apart last season. Reports surfaced this week that Brad Stevens’ dedication to former Butler Bulldog Gordon Hayward was at least one reason for the team chemistry starting to unfurl.

Whichever team grabs Horford will be getting a player who still has much left to give, and who can help guide a team into the playoffs. Whether he’s heading to a contender or an overpaying bottom-feeder, we don’t yet know.

This league just keeps getting weirder and weirder.

Daryl Morey denies that Chris Paul requested trade in James Harden dispute

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Things are not all that great for the Houston Rockets. They were bounced in the second round by the Golden State Warriors, and Chris Paul and James Harden appear to be at each other’s throats.

There been reports that Paul and Harden have each issued ultimatums to team management asking the executive branch to instigate a trade. This of course essentially means that the Rockets need to look for a trade partner for Paul.

The problem is that Paul has a massive $125 million left on his deal. It was an insane sum when Paul signed it, but the thought was that even a declining CP3 would be able to help the Rockets as they went all-out expecting a Warriors decline.

But Rockets GM Daryl Morey has refuted the idea that either player has issued an ultimatum. Morey told Marc Stein of the New York Times as much, and reiterated this stance on ESPN radio on Tuesday.

Morey is a veteran general manager, and openly noting that a player has requested a trade cuts his leverage. It has been widely reported that Morey has been looking for trades for Paul and his gargantuan contract for some time, with no apparent taker as of yet.

Now is the time to jump on things in the West. The Warriors are weak, particularly with injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Who knows what that roster will look like next season (and beyond)?

Houston has been the perennial contender against Golden State in the playoffs, but now they appear to be bursting apart at the seams. Morey is one of the best general managers in the NBA, and he has a history of taking big risks and turning wheat into gold. But until he can offload Paul’s contract, things will be tenuous in Texas.

Report: Brad Stevens’ dedication to Gordon Hayward caused chemistry issues with Celtics

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Things are not all well in Boston. The Celtics are already in a free fall when it comes to free agency, and it’s not yet July. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are reportedly poised not to return to TD Garden next year. Now, a team that was aiming for the NBA Finals next year could be in serious trouble.

Things have quickly fallen apart for Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, who are left with a team that also has an apparent enemy in one of the biggest agencies in Klutch Sports. Boston reportedly backed out of serious offers in trade negotiations with the New Orleans Pelicans in part because they felt as though Klutch client Anthony Davis would not re-sign after one year.

Basketball is a game of chemistry, and the Celtics seemed to lose theirs over the course of the year. At least externally, it appeared Boston was disintegrating. Now, according to a report from Jackie MacMullan, we have some confirmation of this rift.

Via NBC Sports Boston:

“You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could, but I really think that’s where it started,” she said. “They were force feeding him on his teammates, Brad [Stevens] knew Gordon well, he wanted to get his confidence back.

“I would contend that Brad Stevens would have done that for any player on that roster that had a catastrophic injury, he would want to fill him with that same confidence, but that’s not what happened,” MacMullan continued. “He gave the benefit of the doubt over and over to a player that wasn’t ready, to a guy who had history with him, and it rankled that locker room, and it bothered that locker room.”

The Celtics have a roster on paper that should have been good enough to get them deep into the playoffs. But Hayward returned and never really looked like himself, and Stevens devoting his faith to his former Butler Bulldog was obviously misplaced.

Chemistry issues for Boston we’re not all to blame on Stevens and Hayward. Irving is perennially mercurial. Given a situation where he got his own team (whatever that means) he didn’t lead the way folks were expecting.

Unless something drastic can be done — and don’t put it past Danny Ainge to get wild — Boston could be taking a step back next season.

Their saving grace, ironically, could be a fully healthy Hayward who has more reign to do what he wants and an unrestricted role on offense. We’ll see how that goes.

Report: Kawhi Leonard focusing on Clippers in free agency

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Kawhi Leonard might not be with the Toronto Raptors next season. That much has been apparent ever since the Raptors traded for Leonard last year, but the team did just win the 2019 NBA Finals. You know what they say: winning fixes everything.

But we are now into the thick of the NBA offseason, and that means crazy rumors and a wild game of Free agency musical chairs. Leonard could end up in many places, including Toronto. But the talk all along has been how Leonard prefers to land in Los Angeles.

The only problem for fans in L.A. county? His landing spot is unlikely to be the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard’s focused on Los Angeles but only with the Clippers. In Wojnarowski’s opinion, Leonard is not interested in joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis as a third wheel on a superstar, big three type of Team. Instead, Leonard wants to have his own team match the way he does in Toronto. That could easily be the case with the Clippers.

Via ESPN:

The Lakers are trying to open up enough cap space for a third max-level player, which Leonard obviously is. But if things stand how they are now, Rob Pelinka and the Lakers will need to go elsewhere to find a third star to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Obviously the Lakers would be better suited by using their cap space to fill out their roster around their two superstars, but they probably won’t do that. In the end, Leonard focusing on the Clippers seems like the right choice.